While the Tánaiste has been away, the issue of tracker mortgages has dominated debate in the House. It has added another chapter to the ever-enlarging book entitled Wrongdoing by Irish Banks. One always knows when a story is getting too hot and uncomfortable for certain institutions when their spin doctors tell them not to do interviews and to go to ground. We reached that stage of the story this morning when none of the banks would make themselves available for interviews on radio. Their silence is indicative of the fact that they know their actions are and were indefensible.
Banks are not above the law and they are not entitled to disregard proper principles of corporate governance. That is particularly true in this instance because the very same banks benefitted from the people of this country making the decision to bail them out when their previous over-speculation and reckless lending had the effect of causing a banking collapse. The news that the majority of banks in Ireland were engaged in fraudulently increasing mortgage rates for people on tracker mortgages first came into the public domain approximately seven years ago. Faith was put in the Central Bank to resolve it, but that faith, unfortunately, was misplaced. We were supposed to have a report in 2015 but all that has happened since is that some AIB customers have had their rates corrected and some in other banks have had that as well as receiving some compensation. The pace is far too slow.
This story was brought to a heightened level when the finance committee invited individuals to give their personal stories as to what had happened to them in their lives as a result of the fraudulent behaviour of the banks. We got a further example of that today on the radio when Ms Caitríona Redmond was interviewed and explained what had happened to her as a result of the banks moving her off a rate to which she was entitled. She told listeners to the radio this morning that she had to pay an extra €500 per month, which was an excessive amount of money for any person and which had a significant impact on her ability to deal with her household expenses. She also said it took from 2010 to December 2016 to get the bank to correct her rate. Like me, she has little faith in the banks' claim that they will be able to deal with this issue by June of next year.
I do not hold the Government responsible for the reckless behaviour of the banks, but it is responsible for the State's response. I am afraid that the response of the State and the Government to date has been pathetic. We were told initially by the Minister for Finance that he would name the banks, which obviously really scared them. We were then told last week by the Taoiseach that he was losing patience with the banks. Yesterday, the Minister for Finance said he will hold the banks responsible and to account. What is the Government going to do in respect of this issue? Is legislation going to be introduced and if so what will it provide for? Mention has also been made of the State playing the role of activist shareholder at meetings of banks in which it holds shares. What resolutions will it put down? Does the Tánaiste trust the banks to deliver on what they have committed to or does she share my cynicism about them?