While in opposition Michael McGrath, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, paid particular attention to the disparity between Irish mortgage rates and those enjoyed by most Europeans. He, like everyone else, could not understand why Irish banks charged their customers much more than their EU counterparts. He, like everyone else, was disturbed by the banks' rapacity.
Ahead of talks with the banks this week to deal with profiteering claims linked to Covid-19 mortgage breaks, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Leo Varadkar has said that he “doesn’t fully trust what they (the banks) say until it has been demonstrated otherwise... they talk you down with regulatory gobbledygook".
Asked if he believed the banks would not seek to make additional profits from interest breaks granted to customers because of the lockdown, Mr Varadkar said the banks “have form, that’s the truth of this. We’ve seen the tracker mortgage scandal.”
As if on cue, AIB announced in recent days that it will compensate another 1,100 customers who were charged the wrong rate on tracker mortgages. This is in addition to the 40,100 customers who were paid €683m in redress and compensation by all banks in this unending scandal. At least 99 families lost their homes as a consequence of being denied or moved from a tracker rate.
It is extraordinary that two of the country's senior politicians should express such fundamental doubts about our banks. However, the evidence is unfortunately on their side and it has been for decades. Should they choose to confront these issues they have convincing leverage, should they choose to use it. They can cut through the "regulatory gobbledygook" preventing Irish consumers using European banks. This, as our lives move online, seems inevitable so what are we waiting for?