Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has called on the Taoiseach to protect Mortgage Interest Supplement Relief and repeal legislation that will make it almost impossible for low income families to access the payment.

Speaking following Leaders’ Questions this morning, when he challenged the Taoiseach to take a lead on the issue, Deputy Martin commented, “All over the country there are families on low income struggling with mortgage debt.  One of the methods brought in by the last Government to help these families through tough times was the Mortgage Interest Supplement relief.   This Fine Gael /  Labour Government claims to be focussed on helping those struggling with debt, but last week, unannounced and under cover of a Statutory Instrument, Labour Minister Joan Burton slipped through a new rule that will it even more difficult for people, particularly those on low income to access help.

“Under the new rules, those seeking MIS relief must first negotiate with the banks and then, only when the bank is happy with what they are proposing, they must continue to pay their mortgage for a further 12 months before they can even apply for help.  This is not helping those in mortgage arrears, it is making matters worse.

“When I pointed out this change to the Taoiseach and asked him to repeal the new law, he changed the subject and claimed that the new rule was required because of the Keane Report.  The Taoiseach should read what the Keane Report says.  It is critical of the MIS becoming a long term relief and recommended that something should be put in place to take over from it after a certain period of time.

“Instead of building on the relief offered by MIS as recommended by Keane, the Government is now just making it harder for families under pressure who are trying to access the payment.  If the Taoiseach is serious about helping those in most need of relief, he will repeal this underhand Statutory Instrument without delay.”