Tracker mortgage scandal: Varadkar urges banks to repay what is owed immediately

Taoiseach says as far as I am concerned the date for doing this should be 'yesterday'

Hazel Melbourne and Thomas Ryan, victims of the tracker mortgage scandal, speak to the Oireachtas finance committee.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged banks that wrongly took home owners off tracker mortgages to apologise to them and pay back money owed to them as a matter of immediate priority.

Mr Varadkar said he didn’t believe the government had the power currently to set a deadline for banks to repay those that they had wrongly taken off tracker mortgages but he urged them to do the proper thing immediately and repay them the money they are owed.

“I’m not sure if we have any plans to set a date or deadline or even if we could do that (compel the banks to repay the money by a certain date) within the powers that we have as a government but as far as I am concerned the date should be yesterday,” he said.

“Any banks whether they are partially owned by the State or not took people off tracker mortgages incorrectly should put that right and they should put it right and they should repay what is owed, offer an apology and also compensation,” he said.

Speaking at University College Cork, just before he went into a Cabinet meeting, Mr Varadkar expressed his sympathies to those caught up in the tracker mortgage scandal as he revealed he had a tracker mortgage.

“As somebody who has a tracker mortgage and in many ways it’s been a godsend, because it’s meant my mortgage has been very affordable in years gone by and I can only imagine what it would have been had it been 4 or 5 per cent or 6 per cent,” he said.

“There are many people and many families who have been driven to distraction and endured enormous mental health trauma with fears about what would happen to their family and those things should never have happened.”

Mr Varadkar made his comments after the Oireachtas Finance Committee heard evidence on Thursday from four people who caught up in the tracker mortgage scandal after Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank wrongly switched them off their tracker mortgages.

The four homeowners, accompanied by solicitor Padraig Kissane who has been campaigning on behalf of tracker mortgage holders, told the Finance Committee how they were forced to pay tens of thousands of euros more in repayment than was necessary.

The four spoke of the huge stress that they had to endure with one homeowner, Thomas Ryan telling the Finance Committee that he had suffered a stroke in 2013 and his wife suffered a nervous breakdown in 2015 over being wrongly taken off a tracker mortgage.