The Mortgage War Has Begun


Oliver writes:

I don’t have a mortgage and I don’t know this couple. But I’m wondering where are we going to draw the line in relation to condemning people on their mortgage debt?
While a couple who bought 21 properties might not elicit sympathy, I don’t think it’s right to use them as a scapegoat for our mortgage debt crisis either.

I certainly didn’t feel comfortable watching them being dragged from their home, albeit palatial and being paid for by the taxpayer. And while I can understand the feelings of anger being hurled at them, I feel it’s dangerously distracting taxpayers’ attention from what we should really be debating – and that is the bank guarantee and debt forgiveness.

We all know banks were throwing cash at people during the boom. I was earning €21,000 in 2003 and was constantly getting letters from my bank (Bank of Ireland) telling me I was approved for a substantial mortgage.

A guy on [RTE’s] Frontline earlier this week admitted he was given a loan worth 10 times his salary with no questions asked. We don’t know what this couple’s earnings, or company profits were – so we don’t really know what their income was relative to those loans. 

And more worryingly we don’t know what rules IBRC, or NAMA, are following, if they’re following any at all, as neither are under FOI. So who is to say who next will be evicted? And how can we know if it’s a fair move? How can we know others who perhaps ‘should be evicted’ aren’t?

In November 2010 [Economist] Morgan Kelly predicted a Mortgage War between those who took out mortgages and those who didn’t.

He said:  “The gathering mortgage crisis puts Ireland on the cusp of a social conflict on the scale of the Land War, but with one crucial difference. Whereas the Land War faced tenant farmers against a relative handful of mostly foreign landlords, the looming Mortgage War will pit recent house buyers against the majority of families who feel they worked hard and made sacrifices to pay off their mortgages, or else decided not to buy during the bubble, and who think those with mortgages should be made to pay them off. Any relief to struggling mortgage-holders will come not out of bank profits – there is no longer any such thing – but from the pockets of other taxpayers.

He also said: “If one family defaults on its mortgage, they are pariahs: if 200,000 default they are a powerful political constituency. There is no shame in admitting that you too were mauled by the Celtic Tiger after being conned into taking out an unaffordable mortgage, when everyone around you is admitting the same.

“Ireland faced a painful choice between imposing a resolution on banks that were too big to save or becoming insolvent, and, for whatever reason, chose the latter. Sovereign nations get to make policy choices, and we are no longer a sovereign nation in any meaningful sense of that term. From here on, for better or worse, we can only rely on the kindness of strangers.”

(Eamon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

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