Gallagher would have tested constitutionality of property Bill

Presidential candidate also defends comparing ‘Tweetgate’ to institutional abuse

Presidential candidate Seán Gallagher  with students during a visit to Dublin City University. Photograph: Niall Carson/ PA Wire

Presidential candidate Seán Gallagher with students during a visit to Dublin City University. Photograph: Niall Carson/ PA Wire

 

Seán Gallagher has said that if elected president in 2011, he would have considered referring a 2013 Bill on property rights to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.

Asked yesterday would he have used referral powers under Article 26 of the Constitution differently from President Michael D Higgins, Mr Gallagher said the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 would have “merited consideration” for such a move.

The Bill purported to correct an anomaly in 2009 legislation that prevented banks from applying for repossession of homes where mortgages had been taken out prior to 2009. Under that Act, only houses with mortgages taken out after 2009 could be subject to the application. The 2013 Act allowed financial institutions to apply for summary possession of homes irrespective of when the mortgage was taken out.

Eviction

Mr Gallagher said he did not have recourse to advice from the Council of State but described the law as a form of eviction Bill.

“It transferred a lot of rights of ownership from the citizen to large financial institutions.

“I have sat in kitchens and listened to people who struggled to pay their mortgage, where the mortgage has gone from them to large financial institutions, faceless and nameless.

“They have been doing their very best, despite challenges with health and business, and [while they] have not been able to meet all their repayments they have been doing their best.”

He contended “Nama or others” sold those houses at a “reduced heavily discounted price”. He said now the houses had returned to the previous market value but the people who were doing their best to pay the mortgage had lost out. “There was a merit in having that referred to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Asked on what basis, he said it was based on property rights. “[It is] the rights of the citizen to own their own home, which is the heart of everything,” he said.

Mr Gallagher was speaking to reporters at Dublin City University, as he campaigned in the capital.

Video interview

He was also asked about a video interview dating from 2012 where he made a comparison between his experience with “Tweetgate”, a tweet on RTÉ’s Frontline in 2011, and victims of abuse in State institutions.

He told reporters he was not trying to say the events were comparable but that there were similarities in the processes.

“The point I was making in the video was that very often when an individual takes on an institution, the institutions do what the institutions do. They lock down to protect the institution rather than deal with the the issue.”

Asked would people be offended by him making that comparison, he said: “That was not my intention at all. It was literally to give the example. At the time it was current. If I was doing it today, I would have [compared] it to the HSE and the victims of the [CervicalCheck scandal].

Asked by reporters were he and others losing the battle for younger voters and millennials to Mr Higgins, he said: “That’s the challenge for all of us to outline our vision, and to make it relevant and tie in our experience, and identify the big challenges facing Ireland at this time.”