Monday 15 October 2018

Government must show its teeth and finally confront bankers' greed

Editorial Comment

That it has taken this long for the Government to take action to deal with the growing tracker mortgage scandal is nothing short of outrageous.

The tracker mortgage scandal - which may have affected as many as 30,000 people and families - emerged in mid 2015 but only now, more than two years later, is the Government finally stepping in.

Until now Enda Kenny and Leo Varadkar's Governments have been content to let the Central Bank deal with the matter and that toothless organisation has proven woefully ill-equipped to deal with the banks' wanton disregard for their customers.

Ireland's banks - whose reckless and irresponsible behaviour cost our nation its economic sovereignty - have once again been allowed get away with practices that are at the very least grossly incompetent and potentially unethical, according to some economists.

Since the crash in 2008, successive governments - involving Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and The Greens - have been quite willing to sacrifice struggling citizens at the altar of high finance.

In their rush to save the banks who destroyed our country, these governments pushed millions of people into penury, all the while pumping vast sums into the banks that plunged the nation into crisis in the first place.

Little or nothing has been done to bring the banks to account for their actions and in most instances, where bankers faced legal sanction, the cases have collapsed in a shambles.

Having gotten away scot free for years is it any wonder - even after all they have done - that Ireland's banks still feel as if they can do what they want, without any fear of reprisal?

At the heart of the current scandal are thousands of hard pressed people and families who lost - or some would argue were robbed of - enormous sums of money and in some cases even their homes.

This week - in the face of growing public outrage - the Government is calling in the heads of the banks to ask how they will make amends for the trauma they caused these people.

We're told that if the banks don't takes concrete steps to reimburse and compensate their "overcharged" customers by Christmas, then the lenders will face stiff penalties.

That's all well and good but is there any reason to believe the banks will pay any attention to this latest 'threat'?

Sadly, past experience would strongly suggest there isn't.

The heads of Ireland's banks are well accustomed to the odd telling off from the Government. Their path to the Minister of Finance's office is, by now, a well worn one.

Our leading bankers seem to view an occasional dressing down by the Minister of the day as part and parcel of day to day business.

It's a minor inconvenience - and a concession to Government optics and spin - that must be endured before everyone can get back to business as usual.

After nine punishing years the people are sick and tired of the State's kid glove approach to the banks. Enough is enough.

It's time for the Government to stop crying wolf and, for once, to show the bankers its teeth.

Wexford People

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