The conflicting statements from Government Ministers and TDs on debt forgiveness are resulting in mixed signals being given to all mortgage holders, according to Fianna Fáil’s Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath.
 
’Speaking ahead of today’s cabinet meeting, Minister Michael Noonan said the banks had the capital to write-off mortgage debt. On the News at One today, Fine Gael’s banking expert Peter Matthews also advocated that the banks press ahead and write down mortgage debt.
 
Deputy McGrath stated, ‘Today’s comments from Minister Noonan and Deputy Matthews stand in direct conflict with earlier statements from the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister of State Brian Hayes – both of whom ruled out a debt forgiveness scheme. Minister of State Willie Penrose and Minster Joan Burton have in recent days made soothing noises about debt forgiveness.
 
‘The total lack of coherence within the Government on the issue of how to handle mortgage arrears is resulting in mixed messages being given to the 55,763 mortgage holders currently in arrears of ninety days or more and also to the 93% of mortgage holders currently meeting their mortgage commitments in full.
 
‘The Government needs to make a clear statement as to precisely where it stands on debt forgiveness and clear up the ever-growing confusion it has itself created.
 
‘Fianna Fáil has advocated a multi-faceted approach to tackling the mortgage arrears issue. We want to see the full implementation of the recommendations of last November’s Expert Group report including the roll-out of the deferred interest scheme, reform of the mortgage interest supplement scheme, the introduction of a non-judicial debt settlement system and the modernising of Ireland’s bankruptcy laws. We have also proposed legislation to protect the family home from repossession and to regulate debt management service providers.
 
‘Our view is that, where a person’s total debt level is clearly unsustainable, the best way of dealing with that is through a comprehensive assessment of that person’s financial position by an independent statutory non-judicial debt settlement office. That is why we will be introducing the necessary legislation on the floor of the Dáil when the House resumes next month and we hope the Government will work co-operatively with us to bring in these badly needed reforms.’