Govern­ment must show its teeth and fi­nally con­front bankers’ greed

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - OPINION -

THAT it has taken this long for the Govern­ment to take ac­tion to deal with the grow­ing tracker mort­gage scan­dal is noth­ing short of out­ra­geous. The tracker mort­gage scan­dal – which may have af­fected as many as 30,000 peo­ple and fam­i­lies – emerged in mid 2015 but only now, more than two years later, is the Govern­ment fi­nally step­ping in.

Un­til now Enda Kenny and Leo Varad­kar’s Gov­ern­ments have been con­tent to let the Cen­tral Bank deal with the mat­ter and that tooth­less or­gan­i­sa­tion has proven woe­fully ill-equipped to deal with the banks’ wan­ton dis­re­gard for their cus­tomers.

Ire­land’s banks – whose reck­less and ir­re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour cost our na­tion its eco­nomic sovereignty – have once again been al­lowed get away with prac­tices that are at the very least grossly in­com­pe­tent and po­ten­tially un­eth­i­cal, ac­cord­ing to some econ­o­mists.

Since the crash in 2008, suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments – in­volv­ing Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and The Greens – have been quite will­ing to sac­ri­fice strug­gling cit­i­zens at the al­tar of high fi­nance.

In their rush to save the banks who de­stroyed our coun­try, th­ese gov­ern­ments pushed mil­lions of peo­ple into penury, all the while pump­ing vast sums into the banks that plunged the na­tion into cri­sis in the first place.

Lit­tle or noth­ing has been done to bring the banks to ac­count for their ac­tions and in most in­stances, where bankers faced le­gal sanc­tion, the cases have col­lapsed in a sham­bles.

Hav­ing got­ten away scot free for years is it any won­der – even af­ter all they have done – that Ire­land’s banks still feel as if they can do what they want, with­out any fear of reprisal?

At the heart of the cur­rent scan­dal are thou­sands of hard pressed peo­ple and fam­i­lies who lost – or some would ar­gue were robbed of – enor­mous sums of money and in some cases even their homes.

This week – in the face of grow­ing public ou­trage – the Govern­ment is call­ing in the heads of the banks to ask how they will make amends for the trauma they caused th­ese peo­ple.

We’re told that if the banks don’t takes con­crete steps to re­im­burse and com­pen­sate their “over­charged” cus­tomers by Christ­mas, then the lenders will face stiff penal­ties.

That’s all well and good but is there any rea­son to be­lieve the banks will pay any at­ten­tion to this lat­est ‘ threat’?

Sadly, past ex­pe­ri­ence would strongly sug­gest there isn’t. The heads of Ire­land’s banks are well ac­cus­tomed to the odd telling off from the Govern­ment. Their path to the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance’s of­fice is, by now, a well worn one.

Our lead­ing bankers seem to view an oc­ca­sional dress­ing down by the Min­is­ter of the day as part and par­cel of day to day busi­ness.

It’s a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience – and a con­ces­sion to Govern­ment op­tics and spin – that must be en­dured be­fore ev­ery­one can get back to busi­ness as usual.

Af­ter nine pun­ish­ing years the peo­ple are sick and tired of the State’s kid glove ap­proach to the banks. Enough is enough.

It’s time for the Govern­ment to stop cry­ing wolf and, for once, to show the bankers its teeth.

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