Kenny and Higgins clash on mortgages

Thu, Oct 20, 2011, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT does not have the funds to write off all mortgages in difficulty, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted, rejecting claims he had an “insulting and begrudging” attitude to homeowners in arrears.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins hit out at the Keane report on mortgage arrears as “a banker’s charter written by bankers” and said the Government’s attitude “to the victims of ruthless blackmail by property speculators and bankers has been insulting and begrudging”.

The Dublin West TD claimed the Government’s attitude “constantly implies that an army of borrowers are waiting to cheat on their mortgages in order to excuse its action”. He called on the Taoiseach to “take a leap of imagination” by “marking down the rip-off speculative mortgages that people were blackmailed into taking”. Mr Higgins said that if the mortgages were marked down to their “real value” and monthly payments marked down accordingly, “a generation would be freed from this nightmare and the burden that is on them”.

Mr Kenny said that while he had no difficulty taking a leap of imagination, “I have no intention of taking a leap of madness as you suggest”. The report identified 50,000 people in serious difficulty with their mortgages and 70,000 people who had restructured their debt with their banks.

“I do not have €14 billion to write off all the mortgages that are in difficulty,” Mr Kenny said.

Mr Higgins said the Taoiseach believed it was a leap of madness to say hundreds of thousands of people should be bailed out from “blackmail mortgages” but he “does not think it is a leap of madness to give €80 billion or €90 billion to bankers and bondholders whose private debts for private profit we have no responsibility for”.

Mr Kenny said he did not want the roof to be taken from over anybody’s head. “We need a swift response to a situation that is a crisis every minute of every day for those who are locked into it.”