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Leaders' Questions: Concerns over banks' role in mortgage arrears plan

Micheál Martin also questioned the Government about home repossessions following comments by Matthew Elderfield.

FIANNA FAIL LEADER, Micheál Martin, has raised concerns about the amount of homes that could be repossessed under the new plan to tackle the mortgage arrears crisis.

During a round of Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, he accused the Government of trying to play down repossessions following comments by the deputy governor of the Central Bank. Matthew Elderfield warned that repossessions will rise significantly as a result of the new Central Bank policy on mortgages.

The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, who was taking questions from opposition TDs this morning, said the the act of repossessing a home would only be done in “extremist situations”.

Martin told the Dáil “there have been about 950 repossessions, 38 forced repossessions in the last quarter”.

He said when the Central Bank talks about a “significant number of repossessions” and the government denies it, “there is something missing in the equation”.

But Noonan told Martin if there were no provision in the law for repossessing a home then the mortgage market would collapse.

Independent debt settlement agency

Martin along with Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty also raised concerns about a banks’ role in the new mortgage arrears plan.

They said the the government’s announcement “puts the banks in the driving seat” and both questioned who would independently overlook the deals that are being done with those in mortgage arrears.

Doherty blamed the Government of “leaving these families at the mercy of the banks”.

“There isn’t any flaw in the plan outlined yesterday,” Noonan responded. He said the Central Bank is independent and has taken on the task of monitoring the arrangement. He added that a director of personal insolvency has been appointed and personal insolvency practitioners are also being hired and they will all be independent and will act as mediators between the lender and the borrower.

Noonan added that every situation would be looked at in a case-by-case basis. “There are people out there who would like a discount in their mortgages, but we can’t do that. Write-down will only be looked at case-by-case.”

Noonan agreed with Doherty when he linked unemployment to impaired mortgages and said the Government were working at driving the economy and getting people back to work again.

Read: Banks ‘do not have a veto’ to block insolvency deals, insists Kenny >

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Amy Croffey

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