A bailout for thousands of homeowners in mortgage arrears has been ruled out by 26-County Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield.
Despite the billions provided to the banks and property developers, a government ‘expert group’ on mortgage arrears has declared itself against any formal debt-forgiveness scheme for families which have lost fortunes in the collapse of the property bubble.
The only measures announced were a plan to allow borrowers to defer the payment of interest, a ban on arrears charges and a 12-month stay on repossessions.
Opposition parties and housing charities criticised the report, saying it did not go far enough and describing it as a lost opportunity.
“What we have is a range of proposals that tinker at the margins of the problems but go nowhere near addressing the challenges head on,” said Aideen Hayden, chairwoman of the housing charity Threshold.
“Instead, stop-gap measures are being proposed, which may defer people’s pain to some extent in the short term, but which will not solve long-term problems.”
Aoife Walsh, spokeswoman for the housing charity Respond, said that the deferral of interest payments will not be a long-term help to most people in arrears as it is based on two assumptions - that income levels will return to 2006 levels, and that unemployment will be reduced dramatically.
“Given events over the past number of days, I suspect there are very few people currently in Ireland confident about the good times returning any time soon,” said Ms Walsh.
Meanwwhile, the distribution of some 53 tonnes of free cheese to the poor, announced earlier this month by Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith, began yesterday.
More than 750,000 euro in EU funding will be spent on the charity cheese scheme between now and Christmas.
Some 330 charities have signed up to help distribute the cheese, which is being purchased from the Irish Dairy Board following a tender scheme.
The charities will be able to collect the cheese in boxes of 12kg blocks from stores in Clondalkin, Dublin; Portlaoise; Kilmacthomas, Waterford; Cobh and Togher, County Cork, with a minimum of one box per collection.