Minister's comments signal new action on debt

30 August 2011

Today's reported comments by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan that additional measures were required to tackle the growing problem of mortgage debt and that matters had to be dealt with at a policy level were welcomed by legal rights group FLAC.

FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell, said the comments were "the first sign of any real urgency from this government that it is willing to tackle the issue sooner rather than later."

"We need a coherent strategy that takes into account the entire personal debt crisis, not just mortgage arrears. Minister Noonan is signaling that the government will have the information it needs by the end of September. This can only be welcomed," said Ms Blackwell.

"As FLAC has already said, there must be a plan now, not next year. People badly need and expect the government to come up with a policy response urgently. There is a lot riding on the next few weeks - the government must come up with a policy that is clearly thought out and workable," said Ms Blackwell.

"We look forward to examining the government's proposals when they emerge."


Editors' notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.
  2. FLAC has produced a Factsheet on the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears and a checklist for action upon losing one's job.
  3. The Central Bank released its latest figures on mortgage arrears yesterday, 29 August 2011.
  4. FLAC also issued a press release in response to the figures yesterday.
  5. Some of the highlights of this release include:
  • At the end of 2010, one in ten mortgages was in trouble. By March 2011, it was one in nine. Now we see almost one in every eight mortgages is struggling - 12.24% of mortgages.
  • 95,158 mortgages are in arrears or are being rescheduled out of a total of residential mortgage loan accounts of 777,321.
  • Over 70% of mortgages in arrears are in arrears for more than six months.
  • The average amount of arrears for households in this category is over E21,000.
  • Despite the relatively low level of repossession cases, mortgage lenders now hold 809 repossessed properties, up from 692 in March 2011.
  • These figures refer only to mortgages on principal private residences, that is, where the mortgage holder is living in the property in question.