Behaviour of financial institutions in repossessing property criticised
If the relevant Minister could not do so, members on both sides of the Seanad should combine to halt borderline criminal activities on behalf of some financial institutions in dealing with borrowers, Michael D’Arcy (FG) said.
In one of the latest instances of such behaviour an attempt had been made to steal property and a 16-year-old boy had been threatened he would be killed if he made a phone call, he said. The law was clear in relation to repossession of property. This could be done only by the county sheriff following appropriate court proceedings.
The difficulty was that banks said they were operating within the law. If current legislation needed to be changed, Oireachtas members should be ready to take the initiative in this regard, he said.
Should it not be possible to act by way of ministerial order, he would like to see an all-party approach in the Seanad to the introduction of a Private Members’ Bill that would require the presence of a representative of the county sheriff on every repossession occasion, with such “visits” being made by appointment during working hours.
Banks should no longer be able to claim they were acting legally in terms of this behaviour, said Mr D’Arcy. “If we change it here we will have a result for the people of the country.”
David Norris (Ind) responded: “Let’s unite behind Senator D’Arcy’s proposal.”
Brian Ó Domhnaill (FF) said individuals employed by Friends First had entered a Wexford farmyard by cutting a gate open at 5.30am and had, effectively, stolen a tractor. Friends First had justified its actions as being lawful.
If it was correct, it was time the Government changed the law to protect the citizens of the country. People were at breaking point, he said. It was a disgrace if financial institutions could employ “gangsters” to remove property from private dwellings and farmyards.
Maurice Cummins (FG) said he could understand the anger of members in relation to the activities of some financial institutions. The claim that they were operating within the law had to be challenged, he said.