Fianna Fáil Senator Thomas Byrne has said “the Minister for Finance is fuelling uncertainty among mortgage holders of what plans, if any, the Government has to address the growing problem of mortgage debt.”

Senator Byrne, who is Seanad Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, said: “The Minister has refuted suggestions that the crisis for mortgage holder is ‘snowballing’ despite the fact that the number of mortgage in difficulty has gone from one in 10 to one in eight. 

“On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning Minister Noonan refused, on a number of occasions, to say if the Government believes banks should be writing of mortgage debt despite reiterating that banks who received capital from the State have enough money to do so.”

Figures from the Central Bank this week show that a further 70,000 mortgages had been restructured in the three months to the end of June.  However the Minister has given no clear direction as to whether or not debt is being written off as part of the restructuring or if the Government believes that it should be.

“There is total confusion at the heart of Government on this issue.  The Government must be clear in its approach and the failure to do that is fuelling confusion and uncertainty for families with large mortgage debt.”

“The Government is waiting for the deliberations of an interdepartmental group before deciding what to do.  The Government should be engaging with FLAC and groups like New Beginning.  The groups are at the cold-face in dealing with people with mortgage debt.

“Fianna Fáil has advocated a multi-faceted approach to tackling mortgage arrears. We want to see the full implementation of the recommendations of last November’s Expert Group report, led by Hugh Cooney, including the roll-out of the deferred interest scheme, reform of the mortgage interest supplement, 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.

“Fianna Fáil will be introducing the necessary legislation for a non-judicial debt settlement system on the floor of the Dáil when it resumes next month and we hope the Government will work co-operatively with us to bring about these badly needed reforms.”