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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 5 June, 2020


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As Leo Varadkar is in Paris today, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney stood in to take Leaders’ Questions today.

The issue of tracker mortgages dominated proceedings today. Coveney was also asked about the commissioning of another Savi report into sexual violence and the lack of progress in giving supports for those with dual diagnosis. 

The tracker mortgage scandal continues to dominate today.

Minister Simon Coveney (who is taking Leaders’ Questions in the place of Leo Varadkar today) said the Finance Minister will be making a lengthy statement to the House tomorrow, and there will be substantial statements by the banks too.

This should bring this saga and scandal to an end, said Coveney, who said the banks are acting in the interest in themselves and not in the interest of the public.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin wants to know if a financial levy will be put on the banks. Coveney said Donohoe will be clear on their actions tomorrow. He said if they are not happy with how this proceeds, they will hold another Cabinet meeting on the issue.

There were lengthy discussions at Cabinet last night on the matter.

Coveney said the statement tomorrow will be clear, and if they don’t get a clear path laid out by the banks tomorrow, they will take more action.

He said the Central Bank has powers, but if they need more they can give them to the bank.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou  McDonald begins by extending a warm welcome home to Ibrahim Halawa home. She says she is sure the rest of the House also wishes to extend their warmest welcome home.

She then moves on to the failure of the government to commission another Savi report into sexual abuse and violence. This issue was raised last week also, where the Taoiseach said he was investing in services rather than research, which McDonald said is not acceptable.

She said those in Cabinet, Zappone and the Tánaiste, have voiced that they want another report commissioned.

“We need both and we need them to be properly funded,” she said, adding that it will only cost €1 million. She says they could have five reports over for all the money Varadkar is spending on his “personal vanity project” she adds (pointing to his new Strategic Communications Unit).

Can I also welcome the return of Ibrahim Halawa to Dublin this morning, says Coveney.

He says the department has sent more time on this case than any other. He says he hopes to meet with him later on today.

Coveney says the Taoiseach did not say that they would not carry out the report, stating that if it is the right thing to do it will be done.


She said the research is needed to shape the government’s response to sexual violence. McDonald says it is absolutely necessary and calls for the commissioning of the report to be announced today.

She wants Coveney to make a personal commitment to get it done.

You shouldn’t present it in those terms, he says, stating that she is pitting one against another. He says if the experts tell the government that €1 million needs to be found to carry out the research, it will be found.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan is now talking about the lack of progress in dual diagnosis. Coveney says he will arrange a meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris on the issue as he says he is limited in his knowledge on it.

O’Sullivan says mental health services in the west won’t deal with those with addictions, but there are no addiction services there, she says.

This integrated service would have the best outcome, she says.

Mattie McGrath is up next, and he is talking about how you can’t rob a bank on charm and personality – but he says you actually can, as the recent tracker mortgage scandal has shown.

He says the pillar banks are free to do what they want.

“Tough luck” if you lose your home, he says that is what people are told. He says people see their parents demented, adding the banking system is “rotten to the core”.

He says he is not impressed by the government talk, which he says is just “huffing and puffing”.

McGrath says one customer he encountered didn’t know until last week that they were impacted by the tracker mortgage scandal. He says they had €40,000 taken off them, and they were only offered €4,000.

He says he wants to see court proceedings because people’s lives have been destroyed.

Coveney says €163 million has been given back so far. “We are talking about hundreds of millions of Euros taken from families,” he says.

That is why people are rightly angered, he adds.

The minister says he shares in McGrath’s frustration and anger.

“This is not going to be a case of a number of days of grandstanding,” he says.

Coveney says the government and the Central Bank will see this through.

McGrath says Coveney’s answer is paltry.

“Toothless, useless and totally fruitless” – that’s how he describes the Central Bank.

McGrath describes Donohoe’s chat with the bankers this week as “a little chat”.

“They are your friends, you play golf with them, they support you,” he tells Coveney. He says the tax payer bailed out the banks and all we got back from them was the “two fingers”.

A bit of barney now about whether the Dáil should rise for Halloween break.

Micheál Martin wants the House to return on 1 October, not the 7 October as he says it is excessive.

“What about all the staff that have booked holidays,” asks Mattie McGrath, who says it is just grandstanding by the Fianna Fáil leader.

The business committee says it agreed to the timetable set down.


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