I appreciate that.
It is regrettable that the Tánaiste has used the pandemic to score cheap political points. The Tánaiste knows more than most that Sinn Féin actually proposed a travel ban to the Executive and that the DUP, UUP and the Alliance Party voted that down. This is regrettable given the sacrifices and the suffering that so many people are going through at this point in time, not to mention the loss of life that we have seen increase in the last number of days.
The issue I wish to raise with the Tánaiste today is that yesterday, the Central Bank found that the average interest rate on mortgages here is almost 2.8%. This is the highest in the EU and over twice the European average. First-time mortgage buyers are now paying €2,000 on average more in interest each year than the European mortgage holder. They pay €60,000 more back to the bank over the lifetime of the loan. That is the scale of the rip-off. I will ask the Tánaiste three questions. First, what policy actions will the Government take to respond to this outrage?
Second, the withdrawal of Ulster Bank from the market risks raising these interest rates even further, as the deputy governor of the Central Bank confirmed to me in correspondence last month. What steps is the Government taking with regard to Ulster Bank? Third, on 2 December the European regulator reactivated guidelines-----