It’s high time our banks were brought to heel

It’s the week before Christmas, the season when we are urged to bestow goodwill to all men.

This week’s column was going to comment on how well we are doing relative to others. After all, we are still, according to a recent report, the seventh richest country in the world. Mind you it doesn’t seem like it.

Hearing Wednesday morning’s 7 o’clock news changed whatever bonhomie was left. The news announced that the gougers are back in town, not that they ever left. As of Tuesday, Bank of Ireland has increased the interest rates to be charged on its credit cards. The rates would now be increased by between .7% and 4% with different increases being foisted on different cards.

What makes this move all the more cynical is that fact that Christmas is a time of giving. Unfortunately, in these straitened times, people will not have the ready cash so will rely more on their credit cards. Worse still, while people will typically take several months to pay back what they have borrowed using their credit cards increased interest will mean them taking even longer. The bank is well aware of this. It gets its pint of blood and just keeps taking.

Although Bank of Ireland was not the worst of them, the banks were the major contributor to the collapse of our economy. The banks are doing absolutely nothing to get this country back on its feet. This and the last government have imposed endless debt on the Irish people to pay back the debts of the banks.

Part of the Government’s motivation was allegedly to get the banks to support the development of business and the maintenance of jobs.

What has the banks’ response been? Very simple really. It’s business as usual and that means our bankers paying themselves vast salaries, benefits, pensions and expenses on the basis that they are the best.

They have shown us, the taxpayer, that they are far from the best and should be treated accordingly. They have shown incredible arrogance right since Sept 2008 when they went cap in one hand and nuclear device in the other and inveigled government to underwrite them.

Why has Government done nothing to soften their proverbial coughs? To very many of us it looks like our governments have simply rolled over and asked for their tummies to be tickled.

There is something very strange about this. We know that in the past banks have written off considerable loans to politicians and ex-ministers. Is there something we should be concerned about now?

There was a very unusual and interesting advertisement in one of last Sunday’s broadsheets. It was on the front of the business section and was headlined “Do you want the truth to emerge?” Its first sentence asked if the reader had any information which he/she considered significant in relation to corruption in the banking sector, paying the bondholders, government action or inaction or other illegal or wrong action relating the financial sector and which he/she feels could be tendered as material evidence in any criminal or civil case, to contact a group called people for economic justice. At least, someone is throwing down the gauntlet.

In the absence of any government inquiry, some had to take the initiative, even if we do not know who these people are, who they represent or the nature of their agenda.

Given the performance of our current government, its total disregard for its own willingly made commitments and its inability to spread the pain fairly, should we be taking its promises that the banks will not commence wide scale repossessions once the loophole in the law has been lifted? After all, the evidence from the banks’ performance says we should be worried, very worried indeed.


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