Thursday, 28 January 2016
Order of Business
I also welcome the publication of the Report of Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis and congratulate the Members of this House who participated in it and put in many hours to ensure the report was completed. I welcome the fact that the Leader has committed to holding a debate on this topic next Tuesday. While I know we have run out of road, it is a pity we are not having a wider debate on the banking sector in general because although the report places the blame fairly firmly at the feet of the banking sector, at a cost of €63 billion to the taxpayer, there are still several significant flaws in the banking system which need to be addressed to provide genuine justice for the people of Ireland. For example, the variable rate being charged to mortgage customers in this country far exceeds the European average. There is a clear effort on the part of the banks to make up on the balance sheets for their losses on tracker mortgages.
There is also a consistent attempt on behalf of the banks to ensure that customers of those banks are receiving a poorer service, particularly vulnerable customers who do not have access to the Internet. One of the main banks recently introduced a €700 limit on withdrawals in the high street branches. We also need to consider the mortgage rules which ensure that people who are paying very high rents will not be able to own their homes. There are several issues in the banking system that we need to address. We have had debates on agriculture, tourism, fisheries, small business and technology but not on the banking sector and its role in the economy. If people cannot access a good, decent financial product their life chances are particularly limited. The same is true for small and medium sized businesses, SMEs, which cannot access funding from Irish banks, and for the construction sector. There is a huge equity gap between what the banks will lend these businesses and what they need. Banks have a responsibility to ensure the recovery of this economy and they are not playing their part appropriately.