Before I begin, I want to mention the appalling atrocity in which 17 young people were shot dead and 50 more injured in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Maryland in Florida. It is critical the global community does not become complacent about such heedless, needless and gun-fuelled violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families. A very basic right is that one's children should go to school and come home safely. We send our solidarity to the people of the area and the people of the USA as they grapple with yet another major school tragedy.
This morning, thousands of homeowners across the country are reading in the Irish Independent that their home loans are being put up for sale without their agreement. Permanent TSB is beginning to market a portfolio of home loans worth nearly €3 billion to a range of international investors, including those we know as vulture funds. It is estimated this could represent up to 20,000 loans. That is 20,000 families who are facing a very uncertain future this morning. I want to put that 20,000 figure into context. In the third quarter of 2017, there were just over 11,000 family home loans held by unregulated vulture funds. This one sale could nearly triple that figure in one go. The loans will be sold at less than their actual value to these vultures but the borrowers, these families, will still have to pay every cent of the loan plus interest. Many of the potential bidders for this portfolio are already in business in Ireland and it has not been a good story. They are impossible to engage with. They do not have branches; they have call centres. They rely on anonymous call centres, which may not even be based in the State, to deal with customers. They are aggressive in dealing with borrowers and their families. They are aggressive to the point of causing considerable mental and physical stress to the people involved. They get away with it. They get away with that aggression because there is no regulation. They are accountable to nobody. The finance committee has sought in recent weeks to try to get these people to come into the committee to engage with it but virtually all of them have turned down the request of an Oireachtas committee to account for their actions. Yet, we propose to hand another 20,000 families into their clutches. Permanent TSB is only the first; other banks will follow suit. Loans involving more family homes, family farms and family businesses will be sold to the highest bidder with no regard for the families and borrowers involved.
The Government owns 75% of Permanent TSB. It is the main shareholder so it pays the piper. When was the Government made aware by Permanent TSB of its decision to put this loan portfolio up for sale in this specific manner? Did the Government at any time signal any concerns to Permanent TSB about family homes and the treatment of families in this process? What protections is the Government seeking for those families? The Minister, Deputy Donohoe's spokesperson said this morning that some banks, including Permanent TSB, were considering the sale of portfolios. What other banks, in addition to Permanent TSB, was she, and therefore the Minister, referring to?