Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has described comments by the Minister for Finance that banks are “using the courts to get people to engage with them who haven’t engaged” as a display of crass insensitivity.

Deputy McGrath commented “The implication of the Minister’s remarks are that  huge swathes of the 60,000 families in arrears for over a year are in effect strategic defaulters who must be forced to engage with the banks. The Minister is obviously out of touch with the reality throughout the country where families are literally at their wits end trying the get a fair settlement from their bank. In fact, in many instances the banks are engaging in persistent and aggressive tactics to force people to voluntarily surrender their homes while families are trying to come to a reasonable and sustainable arrangement. Instead of taking the side of the banks, the Minister should be looking at the impact of the defective legislative that his government has presided over.

“The Minister has stood back and allowed the banks to dictate the pace at which resolutions are put in place. For him to blame people for not engaging is extraordinary. One of the key failures on the part of the government and the Central Bank has been the failure to put in place a clear definition of what represents a sustainable mortgage.  His claim that there have only been a few hundred repossessions to date clearly ignores the thousands of cases now before the courts. The government should immediately update the Mortgage Arrears Resolutions Targets to require the banks to display a far greater level of urgency in dealing with distressed mortgage holders. In particular they need to remove the ability of the banks to use initiating legal action as a means of claiming that they are meeting their targets,” added Deputy McGrath.