Deputy Seamus Healy: Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out, a struggle for workers’ rights. The previous year marked the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the all-Ireland Labour Party by James Connolly and Jim Larkin in Clonmel. In a few short years we will remember the sacrifice of James Connolly and his comrades in 1916. It is more than 125 years since Michael Davitt initiated the Land League campaign against rack-renting landlords.
All of these were movements for the rights, freedom, independence and self-determination of the Irish people. Today the Government is prepared to sell the roofs over the heads of 13,000 Irish people to the modern equivalent of rack-renting landlords, foreign vulture capitalists. A total of 13,000 Irish Nationwide mortgage holders face the appalling vista of their mortgages being sold to these foreign vulture capitalists. These companies are not subject to the Irish regulations put in place to protect distressed mortgage holders. The mortgages are expected to be sold at huge knockdown discounts. Performing mortgages will be discounted up to 30% while distressed mortgages will have discounts in excess of 50%. These companies will be able to squeeze Irish Nationwide mortgage holders, increase interest rates, repossess homes and make obscene profits. The mortgage holders are being thrown to the wolves by the Government.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: Hear, hear.
Deputy Seamus Healy: They are not even being allowed to bid for their own mortgages.
An Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett: I thank the Deputy and ask him to put a question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Media reports, rightly in my view, have described this sell-off as pure financial treason and an act of outrageous vandalism. Will the Government reverse the decision to sell these mortgages? Will the Government instruct the IBRC liquidator, as it is entitled to do in law, to stop these sales?
Deputy Joan Burton: Special liquidators have been appointed to oversee the liquidation of the IBRC. This is in law for the benefit of all the creditors of the institution, including the State. The special liquidators, as with any liquidator, must maximise the return, and to do otherwise would leave it open to legal challenge. The process involves the special liquidators conducting a valuation and sale process for all the assets of the IBRC, including the residential mortgage portfolio. They are obliged to ensure they maximise the price obtained.
I understand and respect the Deputy’s concern for the people who have mortgages with the institution. A number of such sales have been carried out and quite a number of Deputies have asked this question of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance. In those cases a number of the purchasers, although they are outside the State, have adhered to the code of conduct and the guidelines set down by the Central Bank.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: What about Danske Bank?
Deputy Joan Burton: This is exactly what I would expect to happen in this case. Unfortunately, because of the collapse of the banks and what Fianna Fáil bequeathed to us, we have a situation in which quite a number of financial institutions have collapsed.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: The Government is in charge.
Deputy Joan Burton: To get the economy working again fully – we have started the recovery – we must sort out the issues arising from liquidation. I am very confident the mortgage holders will find that, as has happened in previous cases in this respect, the advice and codes of conduct established by the Central Bank will be adopted. Nothing else makes sense, if I may say so, for the purchasers of the mortgages, whoever they may be and whether they are from Ireland or from abroad, because at the end of the day they will want to recover their money. If, as the Deputy suggests, they will buy some of the mortgages at a discount, it will make sense for them to treat their customers very well because it will ensure they recover the money they invest in the deal. This is what has happened in Ireland and other jurisdictions where unfortunately there has been this type of bank collapse followed by liquidation of financial institutions.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Quite clearly, these families are being thrown to the wolves by the Government, because that is what the reply means. It means the Government is reversing the gains made by Michael Davitt and James Connolly, who called for the reconquest of Ireland from foreign landlords and foreign capitalists. The Government is restoring the modern equivalent of the rack-renting foreign landlord and providing them with the modern equivalent of the battering ram. Will the Government extend Irish legal protections to all mortgage holders? Will it allow householders to bid for these mortgages? Will the Government allow the special liquidator, KPMG, and its advisers, PricewaterhouseCoopers, both companies that were highly complicit in the banking crisis, to decide the future of Irish families? The Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party accused the former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, of economic treason regarding the bailout of Anglo Irish Bank. The Government is knowingly prepared to sell the roofs over the heads of Irish families to these international vulture capitalists. Is this not also economic treason?
Deputy Joan Burton: The economic treason was probably by the people who brought in the bank guarantee resulting in the disastrous collapse—–
Deputy Mattie McGrath: The Minister’s colleagues in government voted for it.
Deputy Barry Cowen: The Government extended it.
Deputy Joan Burton: —–of a number of banking institutions, as happens, unfortunately, in banking collapses. It gives none of us any pleasure to have to recall very sad history of the party opposite when it ruined the economy and the livelihoods and jobs of more than 250,000 people.
Deputy Dara Calleary: You could do with recalling your own history.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: What about the Labour Party?
Deputy Barry Cowen: And you turned it around. You are doing a great job.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Will the Government allow the people to bid for their own mortgages?
An Ceann Comhairle: Do you mind? Thank you.
Deputy Joan Burton: I am perfectly aware – I understand and I sympathise with people—–
Deputy Dara Calleary: Crocodile tears.
Deputy Joan Burton: —–who are affected by the fact they took out a mortgage, maybe 15 or 20 years ago, with a solid-as-a-rock building society, perhaps specialising in mortgages for teachers or gardaí, but suddenly all of the certainty collapsed with the bank guarantee.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Will the Government protect these mortgage holders?
Deputy Joan Burton: What the Government is doing is sorting out the legacy we inherited.
Deputy Michael McGrath: You are selling them down the Swanee.
Deputy Joan Burton: The Department of Finance is aware of this. We have two previous examples of groups of mortgages being sold—–
Deputy Michael McGrath: It is unenforceable. That is the point.
Deputy Joan Burton: —–and where the interest of the mortgage holders has been treated absolutely consistently with the code of conduct and the other advices of the Central Bank. This is what I anticipate will happen again this time.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Hear, hear.