Varadkar refuses to put timeline over tackling banks on tracker mortgages

Taoiseach uses Fine Gael dinner speech to criticise Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

Minister of State Helen McEntee and  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael presidential dinner. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister of State Helen McEntee and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael presidential dinner. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government may penalise the banks if they do not compensate customers wrongly moved off tracker mortgages.

Speaking at the Fine Gael Presidential dinner on Saturday, Mr Varadkar said he expected financial institutions to compensate the people affected by the end of the year.

Asked what the Government can do, Mr Varadkar said: “The Government is taking this issue very seriously. We are very frustrated at the lack of progress, and we are certainly not ruling out further regulation, further sanction or additional taxation on the banks.”

Senior figures from the financial institutions concerned are to meet Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe next week.

The Government expects a firm commitment and timeline of when the thousands of people affected will receive compensation. Up to 13.000 people are affected.

Asked when the Government would take action, Mr Varadkar said he would not put a timeline on it but insisted there should be sufficent progress made by the end of the year.

The annual Fine Gael President’s dinner was attended by former taoiseach Enda Kenny and several Ministers.

The Taoiseach used his party address to criticise Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Mr M artin is claiming a monopoly on compassion but failed to deliver it in office, Mr Varadkar said.

“We all know which party took €16.50 a week off the carers, people with disabilities, the blind, the widows and the unemployed.

“And we all know which party has restored €10 of it, and will restore it completely in future budgets.

“We all know which party cut the minimum wage. And we know which party increased it four times. We all know which party invented the USC (Universal Social Charge).

“And we know which party reduced it for four budgets in a row.”

Mr Varadkar said Fianna Fail is worried by Fine Gael’s message, and its ability to communicate.

He added: “Micheál Martin is a formidable politician and has seen it all. He became a TD during the Haughey era, he became a minister during the Ahern era, and he became an expert during the Cowen era.

“And he’s spent the last seven years learning to be the new kid on the block.”

Mr Varadkar also criticised Opposition politicians for claiming Budget 2018 was worth less than a cup of coffee to most individuals.

“I’d advise these latte socialists to think again about where they buy their coffee. Because if you can’t be trusted to spend your own money carefully, how can you be trusted with other people’s?” he added.

“The more serious point is that these same politicians opposed any reductions in the USC and income tax. They seem to want to prevent working people receiving any benefit at all. They don’t believe that working people or the middle class are even worth a cup of coffee.

“Some of them have tried to dismiss this budget as only providing a cup of coffee a week for people.”

The Taoiseach also confirmedthe party is arranging to reschedule his televised opening address at next month’s national conference.

Mr Varadkar is due to make a speech at 8.30pm on November 11th, which clashes with Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Denmark.

Mr Varadkar said: ‘’We are in discussions with RTÉ about different options, but it’s obvious, I think it’s fair to say, that the vast majority of the country and the vast majority of the Fine Gael faithful, I am certain they would rather watch Ireland vs Denmark instead of listening to me.

“We are seeing if we can change that to a different time.”