Government to pursue banks over scandal, vows Richard Bruton

The Government will ruthlessly pursue banks for their failures to address the tracker mortgage scandal and may increase the bank levy, create new taxes or ask the gardaí to become involved if necessary, says Education Minister Richard Bruton.

Government to pursue banks over scandal, vows Richard Bruton

He issued the warning and said the Coalition “will not flinch” despite Fianna Fáil claims that the Government was allowing banks to have “slithered and slid” away from the escalating crisis.

Speaking during the latest Dáil leaders questions debate and as fresh calls were made for those affected to be immediately compensated, Mr Bruton — standing in for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is in Brussels — said what was happening to tens of thousands of homeowners was unacceptable and must end.

Echoing Central Bank governor Philip Lane, he said banks breaching clear rules would be ruthlessly pursued, and said bank levy increases and Garda investigations may be sought.

“Any failures by the banks should be ruthlessly pursued. We have no truck with behaviour that brings people to the state of frustration and dismay we have seen.

“The Taoiseach was very clear yesterday that any powers the Central Bank needs will be provided and that the Government will not be afraid to take other measures, including enhancing the bank levy which is set to raise €750m between now and 2021.

“The Government takes this extremely seriously. Given the appalling trauma in our economy and our society caused by bad bank lending and poor regulation, there is now an absolute obligation on banks to fulfill their responsibilities to their clients.

“The Central Bank has made clear that it is engaging with other statutory bodies, including the Garda Síochána, so there is no flinching from pursuing this,” he said.

However, despite the strength of the comment, Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary lashed out at the Government for its response, claiming it has done little to act and is allowing banks to have “slithered and slid” away from the issue.

Hitting out at the situation, Mr Calleary said that while “everybody will agree the way the banks have treated those on tracker mortgages is abominable, to say the least”, the Taoiseach’s sudden interest in the issue does not mean “it just happened today”.

He said the “last-minute attempts by Government to threaten banks to fix it or face a levy” will fail to hold anyone accountable, and that banks have simply “slithered and slid away from what they were supposed to do legally, financially and morally”.

“Banks have caused enough stress in this country. They brought the country to its knees and, given that experience, they should have woken up to their corporate responsibilities, their social responsibilities and their moral responsibilities,” he said.

Mr Calleary said the Government must put new laws in place to address the scandal, and questioned if Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s meeting with banks next Monday and Wednesday to “admonish” them will lead to any concrete solutions.

“The people affected do not need tea and sympathy but action, compensation and, most important, justice,” he said.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said that gardaí should be called in, new levies should be imposed and banker bonuses should be frozen until the issue is resolved.

“This seems to me nothing short of thievery. In any other such circumstances you would expect the gardaí to be investigating the people within banks who deliberately engaged in these overcharging practices that have come to light,” she said.

“The Government have been sitting back for years on this issue. It’s long past time for them to sort this out.

“It’s only when banks and bankers get hit in their own pockets that we will see any resolution.”

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