Government playing ‘part of spectators’ as mortgage rates rise, Sinn Féin says

Dáil resumes with Mary Lou McDonald saying Fine Gael’s claim to support home ownership ‘farcical’

The Government has “played the part of spectators” as mortgage holders have been hit with rising interest rates, according to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said it is “farcical” for Fine Gael to claim it supports home ownership.

Speaking as the Dáil resumed on Wednesday following the summer recess, Ms McDonald said it has become “harder and harder to buy your own home” or to meet mortgage repayments that under the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil-Green Party Coalition.

During Leaders’ Questions, the Dublin Central TD said she had spoken with a “stressed out” father-of-two from Co Cork who said his mortgage repayments have increased from €800 to €1,200 per month.

“I could feel the pressure in his voice when he told me that his family have now started to cut back on essentials to try and keep up with the massive hikes,” she said.


Tenth ECB increase

Ms McDonald noted that the European Central Bank (ECB) last week announced its 10th interest rate hike since July of last year, with such increases “adding thousands of euros to annual mortgage repayments”.

She said many homeowners are now paying between €3,000 and €6,000 more annually, which were “huge sums of money and a serious shock for homeowners trying to cope with soaring prices across the board”.

Ms McDonald said the Government had done “nothing, zilch, zip” to alleviate the “suffering of fleeced homeowners”, in particular those who have had their mortgages sold to vulture funds.

“You’ve played the part of spectators, you’ve watched on as more and more families are put under incredible pressure and it is farcical for Fine Gael to claim to back home ownership,” she said.

The Sinn Féin leader said the time for action was “now” and called on the Government to support her party’s motion calling for the introduction of a “targeted, time-limited” mortgage interest relief scheme.

Enormously expensive

In response, Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney said the Government would not be supporting the motion. He said the Ministers for Finance and Social Protection were looking at ways to support households under financial pressure due to interest rate increases.

Mr Coveney said providing mortgage interest relief “for everybody” would be “enormously expensive”.

“So if the Government is going to do something in this space, we want it to be targeted and we want it to get money to the families that need financial support the most,” he said. “We will have a budget in three weeks’ time when the Government responds to the overall issue.”

Mr Coveney added “significant numbers of first time buyers” were now buying homes, with around 17,500 purchasing homes over the last 12 months.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times