FIANNA Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection and local Deputy Barry Cowen has described Fianna Fáil’s plan to help families stay in their homes and bring about greater control on debt management service providers as a “comprehensive and realistic strategy that should be adopted by the Government.”
Deputy Cowen said: “The package of measures published, including two new Bills and a series of additional initiatives, will have the effect of making it extraordinarily difficult for lenders to remove people from their homes. The Family Home Bill and the Regulation of Debt Management Advisors Bill will significantly empower those in difficulty and afford greater protection to them.”
He said that Fianna Fáil has prioritised this area of policy renewal on the basis that the fears and frustrations of the many thousands of people caught in a spiral of unmanageable debt need to be addressed as an absolute priority. “Keeping families in their homes is the right thing to do for our society and our economy. The fear of losing the family home and the stresses associated with managing personal debt is having an effect throughout the economy and contributing significantly to continued negative consumer sentiment. This Government has abandoned pre-election promises to prevent ECB interest rate increases being passed onto borrowers and to increase mortgage interest relief for some homeowners. Fianna Fáil offers these Bills and policy ideas in an effort to be constructive and give indebted families the support they need,” said Deputy Cowen.
He said these proposals will give the courts a range of options as an alternative to granting a repossession order, including extending the period of mortgages by up to twenty years, imposing debt for equity swaps on lenders and in certain cases rescinding mortgage agreements. Fianna Fáil will also introduce new legislation to properly regulate the Debt Management Advisers industry.
“We believe that by introducing radical new initiatives in this area, including in certain cases giving the Courts the power to rescind mortgage agreements, families most at risk will be given the help they need. The wider community and economy will also benefit from the increased confidence that borrowers will have that protection is in place.
“We have endorsed and adopted the proposals of the Law Reform Commission on personal debt, to include the establishment of a Debt Settlement Office with the power to issue Debt Relief Orders for individuals who simply cannot and will not be in a position to service their personal debt. The time has also come to bring in sweeping reforms to the Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme,” said Deputy Cowen.
He said when Fianna Fáil was in Government, it established the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears which led to the introduction of a series of initiatives including the requirement for lenders to establish Mortgage Arrears Resolution Processes and a new code of conduct for mortgage arrears. “We want to build on this important work now. My colleague Senator Marc Mac Sharry will shortly bring The Family Home Bill before the Seanad for consideration. We are urging the Government to accept it and demonstrate that Seanad Éireann has a role to play in this important issue. We will also bring the Regulation of Debt Management Advisors Bill and the Personal Insolvency Bill before the Dáil during Fianna Fáil Private Members time.
“These measures are extremely important, have been well thought out and will protect people in a very vulnerable position. If this Government is serious about helping this section of our society and is telling the truth when it talks about respecting the role of the Oireachtas, it will accept these proposals without delay,” concluded Deputy Cowen.