Members of the anti-eviction group Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) in Spain; Niamh McDonald, of the Irish Housing Network, and Dr Padraic Kenna of NUI Galway
RTÉ One broadcast a documentary by Sunday Business Post editor Ian Kehoe, called The Great Irish Sell Off.
It examined how vulture funds have bought close to €200 billion in distressed Irish debt – while paying minuscule amounts of tax on the profits – and looked at the on-going consequences of these purchases, given that vulture funds have bought almost 90,000 mortgages in Ireland.
For the documentary, Mr Kehoe travelled to both the US and Spain to see how the same vulture funds operate there.
In Barcelona, Spain – which has seen Blackstone buy 40,000 mortgages from a bailed-out bank while vulture funds Goldman Sachs, Cerberus and Oaktree manage around 150,000 mortgages – Mr Kehoe met with members of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH).
PAH is a grassroots organisation that is campaigning for housing rights and attempting to prevent evictions by occupying homes that are in the process of being repossessed.
Mr Kehoe reported that PAH has prevented thousands of evictions.
As he sat in on one meeting, Mr Kehoe realised 14 Irish people were there, including Niamh McDonald, of the Irish Housing Network, who has also been involved in the recent Home Sweet Home campaign, and Dr Padraic Kenna, a lecturer in property and housing law at NUI Galway.
Ms McDonald told Mr Kehoe:
“In Ireland, people seem to be embarrassed to turn around and say that they can’t afford to pay their mortgage or they can’t afford to pay heir rent and I think that helps the banks in many ways. But if we had a movement that would kind of encourage people not to feel ashamed, then I think people will start to fight back.”
Dr Kenna said:
“People, in fact, are leading the politicians with the solutions here [in Spain]. For instance, they have a law where a family or the administration can buy a property at the same price as a vulture fund. Now that’s something that we could seriously consider.”
Following the documentary, RTE’s Claire Byrne Live held a discussion about the programme with panelists Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Financial Services, eGovernment and Public Procurement Eoghan Murphy, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty and Ross Maguire, a senior counsel and chairman of New Beginning.
Members of the audience also contributed, including James Treacy, the chief executive of Stubbs Gazette.
Mr Treacy, above, said:
“I was very surprised that, in 2016, there were actually only 4 registered judgements awarded in favour of the vulture funds. Now, at Stubbs Gazette, we believe that that figure is going to explode in the next 12 months and there’s a number of reasons for that.”
“The first reason would be that I think that there’s currently about 250 cases currently with the courts that have not been adjudicated on so a significant proportion of those will end up with judgements and secondly, and more importantly, is that the Central Bank have brought out figures that show that 38% of all of the mortgages that are owned by the regulated bodies are over 720 days are in arrears.”
“Now, depending on who you believe, or what you read, there are between 45,000 and 90,000 mortgages that are currently owned by the [vulture] funds. So, whichever way you look at it, there are tens of thousands of these mortgages in serious arrears.”
Watch The Great Irish Sell Off here
Watch Claire Byrne Live here
Previously: Selling Ireland By The Pound