Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020: Motion
Mar is eol don Aire, tá muidne i Sinn Féin tar éis tacú le fanacht agus dul chun cinn an EWSS go dtí an 31 Márta. Tuigimid cé chomh tábhachtach is atá an scéim seo i gcomhair na ndaoine atá ag brath ar an airgead seo. Ar ndóigh, an rud atá mé féin chun caint faoi ná na daoine sin atá ag iarraidh morgáiste a fháil agus nach féidir leo mar gheall go bhfuil siad ar an scéim seo. Impím ar an Aire labhairt leis na bainc faoi seo mar is rud uafásach é do na daoine sin nach bhfuil in ann morgáiste a fháil mar gheall air sin.
I raise the issue of those who are being refused a mortgage as a result of accessing the EWSS. I first point out that we in Sinn Féin welcomed the extension of the existing rate of the EWSS until 31 March. We welcomed it on the basis that it would provide continued support and much-needed certainty for workers and their employers amid continued level 5 restrictions. We believed that was absolutely necessary. Sinn Féin has been constructive in the operation of the wage subsidy schemes. We sought to ensure increased rates for low-paid workers and for the inclusion of women returning from maternity leave under the TWSS. That is, of course, extremely important. We consistently argued for increased rates under the new EWSS when it was first introduced in September. We felt it was clear that wage supports will be necessary for some time to stave off the scourge of unemployment and their design will, of course, require ongoing consideration and the slow roll-out of the vaccine has further underlined that necessity.
Having said that, however, we in Sinn Féin also recognise that the money spent on the TWSS, as well as on the PUP and on the Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS, have been massive State subsidies to a private sector comprised of households and businesses. These State subsidies have been supported by Sinn Féin because we see them as serving the greater good. They have managed to keep many people who would otherwise be out of work connected to their employers. They have kept many businesses going that would otherwise have been liquidated. They have also allowed borrowers - individuals and corporate customers alike - to continue making repayments. That is why I find it so shocking and deeply concerning that some lenders and brokers are still refusing to accept an application for a mortgage from somebody who is on the EWSS. I find it incredible that this could be allowed.
An awful lot of constituents have contacted me. We know how precarious the housing situation is; I am sure I do not need to tell this Chamber how difficult it is for many people, and those in Galway city are no exception to that rule. Numerous constituents have come to me because they have found themselves in this situation. They have asked me what they can do and there is very little that can be done when one person in a couple is on the EWSS and the couple simply cannot get a mortgage although all their ducks are in a row. They are now facing a situation where they will be unable to stay in their rented accommodation and are facing homelessness because they simply cannot get mortgage approval. We need to remember that the State remains the key player in the financial sector, just as it is now a key player in the labour market in general.
In case the Government needs reminding, in the financial sector it holds a majority stake in both AIB and Permanent TSB to the tune of 75% and it holds a 14% stake in Bank of Ireland. I cannot think of any other shareholder with such a major stake that takes this kind of hands-off approach. It is clear that the restrictions will last for some time. We are all aware of that, so schemes such as the EWSS will be with us throughout 2021 to support people. We must ensure that the Government addresses the fact that people cannot get a mortgage because they are on the EWSS. I urge the Minister to do that.