Yesterday was a very bad day for tens of thousands of families and businesses that need breathing space in respect of their mortgages. The announcement that mortgage breaks will come to an end after this week has caused a great deal of anxiety and stress. These mortgage breaks gave homeowners and businesses some relief as the economic effects of the emergency and public health restrictions bit hard. Nobody expected the mortgage breaks to go on forever but they should certainly have been maintained for as long as the pandemic continued. In other countries, mortgage holders have been given breaks of nine months or even a year but that is not the case here. Here, mortgage holders got a break of three months followed by an extension lasting a further three months.
Yesterday, we learnt that the banks will return to business as usual but it is not a case of business as usual for many families and businesses. There are families and businesses that will simply not be able to return to repaying their mortgages normally. Leaving mortgage holders to go it alone and relying on the sympathy of the banks to deal with individual cases is, frankly, unacceptable.
Yesterday's meeting between senior Government Ministers and the banks was a facade. There was no real intent on the part of the Government to reach a solution that would help mortgage holders. All of this is happening at a time when the cosy connections between the Government and the financial sector are once again on show. We have learnt that the former Minister of State, Senator Michael D'Arcy, is leaving the Seanad to be appointed as CEO of a financial lobbying group. In summary, all of this means that there will be no relief for struggling mortgage holders but a big job for a former Minister of State. What does this say to the families and businesses that were relying on the Government to stand up for them and to go to bat for them? This is the second former Minister of State at the Department of Finance to go through the revolving door from the Government into the world of high finance. In fact, during yesterday's meeting, Ministers from the Taoiseach's Government sat on one side of the table while a former Minister of State at the Department of Finance sat on the other side representing the banks.
The Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, has warmly welcomed Senator D'Arcy's new job. He said that he understands why, after 20 years in public life, the Senator might wish to start a new chapter in his life. He said that he will always be welcome should he decide to run for election again. He went on to say that his new employers are fortunate to recruit someone of his calibre.
The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, another of the Taoiseach's colleagues in government, said something different. He said that he has concerns about all of this and that he has shared those concerns with the Taoiseach. We know that the Standards In Public Office Commission, SIPO, has certainly had concerns about this revolving door. Over the last five years, it has approached the Government to seek changes to legislation that would give it the power to investigate and prosecute Ministers who do not adhere to the rules on cooling-off periods before moving to jobs with lobbying groups. SIPO's approaches in this regard have been consistently ignored by the Government. One has to wonder why.
The Tánaiste has one point of view of the appointment. The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has a different point of view. He says he has concerns and that he has shared these concerns with the Taoiseach. Will the Taoiseach set out for us his position on this matter? Does the Taoiseach share the concerns of the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan? If he does, what are those concerns? What action, as Head of Government, does the Taoiseach propose to take on this matter?