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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C

'The rage inside me was getting stronger': Ireland's top bankers face grilling on mortgages and repossessions

Three of Ireland’s top bankers were before an Oireachtas committee to talk about the state of Irish banking system.

THREE BANKERS APPEARED before the Oireachtas Finance Committee in recent days to be grilled on all aspects of their industry.

The bank boss’s answers, in hearings over different days, made headlines for a number of reasons. For instance:

  • PTSB said it would slip into the red over a recent loan book sale
  • AIB said it had written off €1.3 billion in mortgage debt since the banking crash
  • Bank of Ireland said it deliberately kept variable rates high

Bank of Ireland’s CEO Richie Boucher, Permanent TSB boss Jeremy Masding, and AIB’s Bernard Byrne were questioned on a range of issues, from their level of lending, to what they are doing to encourage people to save, to how many homes they are selling on to vulture funds.

With unemployment figures falling, tourism figures on the rise and more cranes appearing along the Dublin skyline, the government’s consistent mantra has been that the economy is making headway.

However, recent figures show there were 82,092 mortgages in arrears in June of this year – a stat that indicates that not every citizen is feeling the effects of the recovery.

Bank of Ireland – Richie Boucher

Bank of Ireland’s CEO Richie Boucher was up first on 16 November.

While a range of issues were discussed, committee chairperson John McGuinness of Fianna Fáil said he could not let the bank boss leave without ensuring he understood the impact the banking crisis had had on the Irish people, particularly those in mortgage arrears.

Boucher told the committee that repossessions were set to increase, with McGuinness commenting that he didn’t feel homeowners were getting a fair deal from the banks.

Below: McGuinness tells Boucher about the level of hardship his bank has placed on homeowner / YouTube

“I am not spokesperson for the banking sector,” Boucher said.

“We had to make tough choices and some of the choices you would not do in an ideal world,” said the Bank of Ireland boss.

Engage more with mortgage holders

McGuinness said it would be remiss of him not to raise the issue of the impact of the banking crisis with Boucher.

The Fianna Fáil TD called on Bank of Ireland and all banks to engage more with government to solve the issue of the rising number of people presenting as homeless.

You gave them that money in the first place and maybe that money was given on poor grounds, that maybe you have a responsibility, not just to work with them, but to make submissions to government and say to them, ‘look we have cohort of people here who simply can’t repay and we are going to have repossess’ – thus thrusting further numbers onto the housing lists around the country. I actually believe that you have that responsibility…

Said Boucher: “We didn’t give the money to anyone – we lent it…”

McGuinness replied:

“I know you lent it, but if you didn’t get the money from the taxpayer of €4.7 billion you wouldn’t be in business today, we wouldn’t be asking you questions.”

Boucher, again:

“If we didn’t maximise and get back the cash that we owed we would not be able to repay the taxpayer.”


I understand that Mr Boucher… but there are families right around the country in deep distress, some of them have lost members through suicide due to the whole impact this banking crisis has had on them, and out of that I say you have a responsibility to work with the government.

When asked had he attended any of the court repossession sittings, Boucher said he had, but not for some time.

I have personal experience of where people have lost businesses – my own family experience has that, so it’s not as though I don’t understand and this characterisation that we don’t understand, I don’t agree with, both as a business, as a human being, and as an individual. I have seen what happens, that is why we have the responsibility to lend responsibly.

Below: McGuinness asks Boucher has he been to the repossession court recently? / YouTube

Permanent TSB – Jeremy Masding

Permanent TSB boss Jeremy Masding was before the committee on 22 November.

He told the committee that it was seeing “encouraging trends” and that customers were engaging with the bank.

This year the PTSB – which is 75% state-owned – achieved its first group profit since 2007.

Masding used the opportunity to once again apologise to customers for the bank’s failure to apply the correct tracker mortgage rate to 1,372 customer accounts.

The CEO said “repossession is always a last resort” and said it the lender had provided 24,000 long-term restructuring arrangements.

AAA-PBP Paul Murphy grilled the banker on the sale of loans of €481 million to a number of vulture funds.

Masding said the sale was of its “non-core” loans, adding that the bank was “obliged” to sell them.

When asked by Murphy if residential mortgages were included in the sale, Masding said some were commercial loans that were linked to some residential home loans.

Murphy asked the bankers if they knew what had happened to the property owners who had had their mortgages sold on to the vulture funds.

He was told that once a sale goes through the bank isn’t involved in any further transactions between the two parties.

Below: Paul Murphy asks if the bank knows what happened to the 5,500 mortgage holders that were sold on to vulture funds? / YouTube

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty did not hold back when addressing Masding and his banking colleagues:

I must say, I was listening to your comments earlier on in relation to the tracker mortgage stuff and the rage inside me was getting stronger and stronger because it was being passed off as ‘you didn’t communicate’ or ‘you didn’t perform or give the information that was required, this is an industry-wide issue’.
Like, you talk about the redress scheme to right the wrongs, and you talk again about how you apologise again to your customers – but this wasn’t just an information flaw…

Doherty went on to say the bankers were living on salaries of up to half a million euro.

You watched these individuals lose their homes, you actually took the homes off these people. In my view, this is daylight robbery of their own customers.

The Sinn Féín said when the tracker problem was pointed out to the bank, officials initially denied anything was wrong.

Below: Pearse Doherty says he has ‘rage inside him’ listening to the bankers / YouTube

AIB – Bernard Byrne

Bernard Byrne, CEO of AIB, was before the committee on 24 November.

He told the members that 14 mortgage customers lost their homes after AIB failed to apply the correct tracker rate to their loans.

“We haven’t completed all the work at this stage and it will run into the early part of next year in respect of that programme. Based on the work we’ve done… our best assessment, on what we know in respect of people where the rate was an issue, we may have 14 customers where the home was lost as a result of the rate,” Byrne said.

He said the bank was “well capitalised” and that the outlook for the bank from credit rating agency Moody’s was positive.

Again, chairman McGuinness raised the issue of mortgage holders ending up in the courts, and asked what the bank was doing to prevent people finding themselves in such a scenario.

A lot of TDs and senators have attended these courts, and I have to say, they’re just simply shocking.

Read: Gardaí investigate raid on Permanent TSB cash machine in Wicklow>

Read:Your paper insurance disc could soon be a thing of the past>

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