Banks still have the whip hand

THE relationship between the banks and Government, and the society our Government represents, can hardly be described as one of equals. Real power still resides in the banks’ boardrooms and Government can, it seems, only cajole and encourage.

The saga around the exceptionally high variable mortgage rates inflicted on Irish customers is testimony to this.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a litany of ministers and opposition figures have criticised the banks as exploitative, yet the country’s six main lenders have been given until July 1 to offer packages that would better reflect the terms on which they borrow money, and to offer some comfort to borrowers.

This is movement of sorts but it would have been more convincing if a package was announced yesterday or if the measures were to be backdated to yesterday. That is the kind of incentive needed to push banks to change.

The Banking Inquiry reminds us all how very reckless the banks and their support service professionals were in the run -up to the collapse that forced them to seek Government intervention. Even if that is an old record by now, the depth of betrayal involved is so very startling that it should have redefined the relationship between Government and the banks. Yet, as the if-you-wouldn’t-mind nature of the debate around rates has shown, it has not. More fool us, and imagine how different it might be if the shoe was on the other foot.


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