Coalition under fire over failure to tackle arrears

Failure to deal with mortgage debt misery left the Coalition under fire as it trumpeted the achievements of two years in power.

Eamon Gilmore admitted progress had been slower than expected in sorting out the insolvency crisis as opposition parties accused the Government of dragging its feet.

Enda Kenny used the second annual review of the Government’s time in power to confirm the Coalition is about to push through laws to make it easier for banks to repossess family homes.

The Taoiseach said moves next week would see a strategy to deal with a legal “lacuna” or loophole, which put a break on repossessions in 2011, unveiled.

That ruling by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne prohibits banks from repossessing a property taken as security prior to Dec 1, 2009, unless a letter of demand has also been issued before that date.

Mr Kenny said the move would not alter the Government’s key objective of keeping struggling families in their homes.

“We’ll do more to accelerate a solution to the mortgage crisis so that as many individuals and families as possible are offered sustainable solutions.”

Mr Kenny said he wanted to see a realistic range of solutions offered by banks to householders who had fallen into arrears.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin rounded on the move to ease the route to repossession for banks, saying it was the last thing debt-laden householders needed at this time.

Mr Martin said the Coalition legacy after two years was mainly “headline-chasing spin” which had plunged confidence in politics to a new low.

Sinn Féin has branded the Coalition’s attitude to those burdened by mortgage debt as “heartless” and have urged ministers not to green light a new wave of repossessions.

The Tánaiste denied that strains had surfaced in the Coalition over how to deal with the mortgage crisis, and other issues.

Mr Kenny stressed that the man focus of the Government over the next 12 months would be to exit the IMF-EU bailout programme and again raise money from the financial markets instead of being ruled over by the troika.

The Taoiseach said the review of Government progress was not intended to generate “claps on the back or credit”, but to show that the Coalition had progressed two-thirds of the programme for government.

Mr Kenny insisted €1bn would have to be cut from the public sector pay bill one way or another.

“It’s not nice, believe you me, as a politician to have to do it, but it’s necessary and in everybody’s interests that we sort out this problem.

“Irish people want to see the problem sorted. Unfortunately, the alternative is to cut frontline services even more, and that’s not palatable and it’s not on.”


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