Burton sends message to Frankfurt through German visitors

Smiles all round until hospital deaths and homeless children are mentioned

Senator Timmy Dooley: thanked the Tánaiste for her history lesson

Senator Timmy Dooley: thanked the Tánaiste for her history lesson


The Bundestag was in the Dáil yesterday.

However, it was no takeover of the national parliament, despite claims that Germany is calling the fiscal shots these days. Still, its presence was felt.

Visiting German deputies, members of the Friends of Ireland in the Bundestag, were watching Opposition Leaders’ questions from the visitors’ gallery.

They smiled broadly when Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley welcomed “our friends’’. Ministers and TDs smiled, too, perhaps delighted that we have German “friends’’ in these difficult times.

Dooley referred to the deputies when he questioned Tánaiste Joan Burton on variable rate mortgages.

“It would not be an overestimation to say they are somewhat amazed that mortgage holders here are paying 4.5 per cent in interest, as opposed to 2 per cent in Germany,’’ he said.

The German visitors smiled.

Dooley suggested the Government’s performance on the issue was weak. The banks should have got the message by now, he said.

Burton reminded him there had been a banking collapse, “which people know happened on the watch of the deputy’s party and cost the country much money’’.

The Government, she said, was in the process of recovering much of that money. Nonetheless, a strong element in the portfolio of lending comprised tracker mortgages on which the banks were losing money.

Burton saw an opportunity to send a message to Frankfurt. She hoped European action could be taken on the issue to give some relief to the banks.

She warned that there were other mechanisms available to deal with the variable mortgage rates if the banks were not inclined to listen.

Dooley thanked the Tánaiste for her “history lesson’’ on the economy’s decline and suggested the House look at “a little bit of recent history’’.

Still smiling

Burton suggested there was a case of amnesia to be found on the Fianna Fáil benches.

She said when the Coalition came into office it had faced Fianna Fáil’s “depredations’’ and, refering somewhat contradictorily to the Bourbons of France, that the party’s representatives seemed, “to have forgotten completely”.

Independent TD Finian McGrath advised the Tánaiste not to mind the Bourbons and look after the mortgage holders.

More smiles from the German visitors.

Then it was the turn of Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to refer to the tragedies in Portlaoise and Cavan hospitals.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan raised the issue of homelessness among children.

She recalled past scandals relating to industrial schools, the Magdalene laundries and the mother-and-baby homes.

She warned that in decades to come there would be reports, inquiries and commissions on the way children were treated today.

Nobody smiled.