Engagement with Investment Funds: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

— shall consider the Report of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach entitled, Engagement with Investment Funds, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 15th March 2018;

— notes the continuing, unsuccessful efforts of the Joint Committee to engage with unregulated private investment funds and regulated credit service firms and regrets the position of these entities in declining invitations from the Joint Committee to attend hearings of the Joint Committee and to be accountable to Parliament;

— acknowledges the support of the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland in calling for the unregulated private investment funds and regulated credit service firms to attend at Joint Committee on the basis that "firms with a serious role in the Irish economy have a social responsibility to account for themselves before the Committee";

— notes the information provided by the Department of Finance detailing the level of engagement with the funds industry from 2013 to 2016 detailing approximately 125 relevant meetings held, thus demonstrating the level of interaction between the funds industry and the Department over those years; and

— calls on the Government to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 17 and 18 of the Report, namely:

— to cease all engagement with unregulated private investment funds and regulated credit service firms until these entities are accountable to Parliament; and

— to introduce legislation for the regulation of all unregulated entities operating in the Irish mortgage market in order to protect Irish consumers.

The motion was agreed by the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, without amendment, on 24 May. The original report was laid before the House on 15 March this year. It is clear that what the motion seeks is greater transparency and accountability in respect of vulture funds and agents. We have tried, without success, to get the vulture funds to become before the committee. In 2017, 19 requests were issued. A further 19 were issued in 2018. Only one of the funds replied; the remainder either refused or did not respond. These are the very funds that are purchasing loans in this country and doing awful damage to Irish society, Irish society being families the Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, and I represent and that are in serious difficulty in keeping their homes. Between 2013 and 2016, the Department of Finance met the vulture funds on 125 occasions, yet they will not deal with or be accountable to this Parliament through the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, which is shocking.

What is even more shocking is the Government's amendment to the motion which was produced very late in the day. In general, it accepts what is being put to Parliament, but it avoids insisting on the vulture funds engaging with the joint committee and regulating them to the extent that they must be attend. It is a shameful piece of work on behalf of the Minister of State. This is the Government which is attempting to avoid accountability for the funds because, like the European Union, it believes there is a need for them in a capitalist society where capitalism operates without regulation. That is what is going on and the Government is turning a blind eye to it. Unfortunately, politically, the confidence and supply arrangement stands in the way of the main Opposition party providing real opposition for the Government and its policies. I would like to think that on this occasion, however, we could stand up to the Government in the interests of the people. That it could cause a general election should make no difference. We should stand up to the Government on behalf of the people we represent and demand the accountability that has been asked for by an all-party committee of the House. The Minister of State's colleagues on the committee and colleagues on this side of the House and others have agreed unanimously to the motion before us.

The confidence and supply arrangement references a commitment to significantly increase and expedite the delivery of social housing units, to remove barriers to private housing supply and to initiate an affordable housing scheme. It is pretty much accepted throughout the country that the Government has failed in that respect. The Government also agreed with Fianna Fáil to protect the family home and introduce additional long-term solutions for mortgage arrears cases. It has not protected the family home. We face the possibility of there being 16,000 evictions. The Central Bank notes that there are 50,000 mortgages of one kind or another in arrears. We are told that when the vulture funds buy distressed mortgages, they have no regard, on behalf of the individuals concerned, to the code of conduct on mortgage arrears. They treat them in a way that should not be accepted by any civilised society. It just should not be accepted. One only has to visit the courts to see how they are treated by the judicial system, how families are affected in a negative way and how children looking at their parents having to fight for their home are affected.

We need to look at what is happening within the vulture fund community in Ireland. They are training individuals within the sector to be aggressive, not to show humanity or compassion and to do their utmost to get the maximum amount from families and individuals who do not have anything.

I am not arguing for the strategic defaulters who will not pay, but I am firmly arguing for those who are making an effort and we should keep them in their own homes.

On the confidence and supply agreement, we agreed to provide greater protection for mortgage holders, tenants and small-medium enterprises, SMEs, whose loans have been transferred to non-regulated entities, namely the vulture funds. Deputy Michael McGrath's Bill came before the House and went to Committee Stage. There were 13 sections in the Bill, all of which were withdrawn and replaced with amendments from the Department of Finance. The Central Bank wrote to the committee regarding the Bill and recommended that it now be sent to the ECB for further scrutiny as was done with the original Bill. There is no law or protocol in place that demands of this Parliament that any Bill relating to finance should be sent to the ECB. We do not have to do it; there is no rule. If I am wrong and there is, please show me where in writing. The ECB may express an opinion but we do not necessarily have to follow that opinion. In terms of our sovereignty we are entitled to deal with the issues as we see fit within this State. Within this State, individuals are being badly affected by what is happening.

All that has to be done is to take from any of the websites of these vulture funds because they all tell the same story. They are interested in seeking investment opportunities in markets that have suffered an economic or banking crisis resulting in a dislocation in asset pricing and value opportunities. Lone Star's site specifically says that it seeks to capitalise on market conditions where banks have failed. They are here as vultures preying upon the most vulnerable in our society to whom we offer no protection, and the Government invited them in. I suggest to the Minister of State that they have no role here. We should force the banks that we own to do the next best thing, which, in fairness, some of them have done. They should drill down into each account, find out if there is any means by which the matter can be dealt with and keep people in their own homes because that is what we agreed in the confidence and supply agreement. In case my own colleagues feel that it may not be party policy, in 1948 during an election address, Éamon de Valera stated, "We regard a state as being ordained for the individual, not the individual for the state." That leads me to the point that the first obligation of Government is to keep its people safe. I keep repeating that and, in this instance, the Government has not kept its people safe.

The committee wants to get on with its work and bring in the vulture funds. It should be borne in mind that these funds have a special charitable status, which results in them having a special tax arrangement. I wonder if that arrangement is similar to Apple's. Is that where we will go with this because that is a case of state aid? State aid rules do not permit that and it could be argued that this arrangement is state aid. Will these vulture funds have to repay the State sometime in the future what they should have paid in the first place?

We are letting the banks off the hook. There is no tax on the banks, not even at a marginal level where we can say to them that we will ask them to pay €250,000 in tax notwithstanding what we have agreed with them. Some make in excess of €1 billion in profits. It is morally wrong that they are allowed to do that in a State where people have been made victims of the system. We will save the banks but we will not save our people. They should not be let off with this scot free. At the invitation of Government, vulture funds come in and buy up all the distressed mortgages at a knockdown price. They can double their investment in a short period by selling on the property and the next vulture fund will still have the opportunity to make a 100% profit. As the value of the housing market increases, they will make even more money.

The Minister of State will probably reply that there are protections in place. A distressed mortgage holder or an SME with a loan that has been defaulted on will be in breach of contract because the loan or mortgage is in default. In that case, how sure is the Minister of State that the code of conduct and that the rights of the borrower will be adhered to? He cannot be sure because I know that the agents have refused to appear before my committee, even though they are regulated. The vulture funds dictate to their agents what to do. I have to ask the Minister of State to believe me because I know that he has a different opinion but dealing with these vulture funds regarding a business loan is next to impossible because they extract the maximum out of an individual. The funds bleed them for everything that they have and homeowners do not stand a chance because of the aggression, anger and deliberate attempts to bully them into submission to pay. Their stories have to be heard from them to be believed.

While I blame the vulture funds, this House is in the wrong because we have created the environment for them to thrive in. This is a political question, which is covered in the confidence and supply agreement. A decent Parliament would protect its people from what is happening. It is our fault because, as an Opposition, we are caught up with the Government in the confidence and supply agreement and then the Government is at fault because it does not have the bottle to take on the vulture funds or the banks. They are now back with the same levels of aggression and arrogance that they displayed during the boom times. Imagine the Minister for Finance saying that it might be acceptable to increase bankers' salaries to in excess of €500,000. Is the Government mad? These banks, which are owned by us, refused to respond to us in a meaningful way. They caused a tracker mortgage scandal and now the Government will increase the salaries of bankers. The Government has not made any attempt to fulfil its agreement to introduce legislation to regulate them, make them come before the committee and save the people we represent.

We are not mad but maybe the madness took place exactly ten years ago when Fianna Fáil were over here and they guaranteed every bank in the State-----

The Minister of State must first move the amendment in the Minister's name.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "and the Department over those years; and” and substitute the following:

"— calls on the Government to implement the recommendation contained in paragraph 18 of the Report to introduce legislation for the regulation of all unregulated entities operating in the Irish mortgage market in order to protect Irish consumers; and

— calls on investment funds to engage with the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach as a matter of urgency and to attend the Joint Committee when invited."

I repeat that the madness took place ten years ago on 29 September 2008 when every liability was guaranteed by the Deputy's party in government.

The Deputy should not forget that. That is what his party did. That was the madness. That was the insanity which cost €64 billion gross and which eventually cost €32 billion or €33 billion. Deputy John McGuinness should not forget that. His party did that.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the motion. There is public concern about the sales of loans and it is important that considered discussion on the topic takes place. I am glad the report specifically acknowledges that relevant borrowers whose loans are sold to unregulated third parties maintain the regulatory protections they had prior to the sale, including the protections provided by the Central Bank’s code of conduct.

It is regrettable that these funds and particularly regulated credit servicing firms have not agreed to appear before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. These funds and firms are an important part of the financial services landscape. They should show due respect to the democratic institutions of the State in which they are operating.

I am surprised by the format of the debate this evening. Although we are considering the report of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach on engagement with investment funds, the format is a motion that calls on the Government to take particular actions following the recommendations in the report. This is different from the normal consideration of a committee report.

Subject to amendment on one issue, the Government can support this motion and the recommendations in the report of the joint committee on engagement with investment funds. The one issue with which we cannot agree is the recommendation to cease all engagement with unregulated private investment funds and regulated credit service firms. Aside from the potential harm flowing from this element of the motion in terms of promoting Ireland as a good place to do business and to make investments, I have a concern about penalising companies for failing to do something they do not have a legal obligation to do. If, on the other hand, the intention behind the motion is that these firms should be compelled to be accountable to Parliament, then we are entering a whole other debate that has a long history in the House. Compellability powers are available to Oireachtas committees in certain circumstances under the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013. I suggest we avoid that debate today given the legal complexities and complications that accompany the issue.

The motion calls on Government to cease all engagement with unregulated private investment funds and regulated service firms. The report refers to the statement of the Governor of the Central Bank regarding the social responsibility of firms operating in the Irish economy to be accountable to Parliament. However, while members of the House have alluded to evidence that has been provided to them on misbehaviour, the report itself does not produce any such evidence. The report states anecdotal evidence suggests that a disproportionate number of complaints made to public representatives by mortgage-holders are mortgage-holders whose loans are now owned by vulture funds. However, if the anecdotal evidence is like the representations that have been received in my Department on these funds, many of the complaints are about the fact that the loan was sold to a fund rather than specific complaints about the behaviour of the fund.

I am not an apologist for these funds or for the regulated credit servicing firms that service the loans on their behalf. However, if there are examples of misbehaviour which have been brought to the attention of Deputies, it is appropriate that they be raised with the Central Bank of Ireland to ensure this misbehaviour is eradicated. Individual borrowers also have a means of complaint through the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman when they have exhausted the internal complaints mechanism in the credit servicing firm. The Ombudsman has the power to refer complaints to the Central Bank if he detects a pattern which shows evidence of a systemic issue.

The Central Bank has written to the regulated credit servicing firms and outlined its expectation that these firms would attend before the committee and co-operate fully with the committee when requested to do so. I also appreciate that the Central Bank does not have the power to compel these firms to do so. I would strongly support the Central Bank's expectation that they show up.

However, as I have said, the motion calls on the Government to cease all engagement with unregulated private investment funds and regulated credit service firms until these entities are accountable to Parliament but neither the motion nor the Oireachtas joint committee report on which it is based goes on to clarify exactly what this means, both on the extent of Government and the meaning of "accountable". Is the intention that Ministers or Departments cease to meet with such entities or is the intention that no arm of the Government or the State should have any engagement? With regard to the former, the motion notes that the Department of Finance has had multiple engagements with private equity funds over the years. The principal rationale for the Department’s routine engagement with such funds is that it allows the Department to obtain market intelligence from firms that have invested in or will invest in the Irish economy in order to understand how they perceive Ireland versus other countries in which they invest. Such information enables the Department to provide me and the Minister with better insights which are cross-checked against other information channels when we are considering policy matters.

It should also be noted that the Department has on many occasions taken the opportunity afforded by such meetings to urge such funds to agree to appear before Oireachtas committees if invited.

If the intention is that no arm of the Government or State should engage with such entities, there are numerous unintended consequences. These investment funds operate in many parts of the economy providing much needed capital investment to sectors as diverse as hotels, retail business and nursing homes. As the Central Bank is independent of Government, we can assume this motion is not telling the Central Bank to cease engaging with credit servicing firms it regulates. However, both credit servicing firms and investment funds are resident in the State with employees. Are Departments or IDA Ireland not to engage with any funds operating in or considering opening up new operations in Ireland? I presume we would still like the Revenue Commissioners to engage with all such entities to collect the relevant payroll taxes and pay related social insurance. Several of the investment funds are moving operations into the State in response to Brexit. Where they purchase offices, I presume the Revenue Commissioners should collect stamp duty. What about public-private partnerships which include investment funds? Should all Departments refuse to meet such firms, even when they are providing much needed capital to the economy to develop much needed infrastructural and other projects? What about the discretion that is available to Ireland as a member state of the EU in transposing EU directives into Irish law? Many directives are highly technical in nature and there is a need to consult with industry to ascertain its views as an input into the decision-making process. That is not to say that industry is a decision-maker but its views are important in ensuring we have the fullest amount of information available to inform the decision-making process. What about venture capital funds which make much needed investments in ambitious, fast-growing companies with the potential to develop into significant businesses? These funds work with management of high potential companies and usually provide expertise and mentoring in addition to actual capital. They are common in high-growth sectors such as healthcare, life sciences, medical devices, ICT and fintech and pose absolutely no threat to consumers. However, the recommendation in the motion is worded so loosely as to capture engagement with these funds.

With regard to being accountable to Parliament, neither the motion nor the report is clear. Will the joint committee be satisfied if such firms appear before it or is there to be a defined standard of accountability against which firms can be measured? What if the committee does not like the answers it receives from a fund or credit servicing firm? Should the committee require information on the performance of the regulated credit servicing firms on adherence to the code of conduct on mortgage arrears, it is already in a position to get this information from the body which regulates credit servicing firms, the Central Bank of Ireland.

The bank appears before the committee regularly and could be asked to comment on these matters. The bank wrote to the committee on 18 September and made it clear that the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2015 ensures that relevant borrowers maintain the same regulatory protections that they had prior to the sale of a loan book.

For these reasons, the Government is of the view that we need to delete part of the motion and replace it with a call for the funds to appear before the committee when invited. Our amendment proposes that the words, "to cease all engagement with unregulated private investment funds and regulated credit service firms until these entities are accountable to Parliament" should be deleted and should be replaced with "calls on investment funds to engage with the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach as a matter of urgency and to attend the Joint Committee when invited".

As for legislation on the regulation of unregulated entities operating in the mortgage market, Deputy Michael McGrath initiated a Bill to provide for the regulation of loan owners, which the Government has committed to supporting. Amendments were prepared by the Office of the Attorney General in conjunction with departmental officials. The Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) (Amendment) Bill 2018 passed Committee Stage on 12 July. As currently amended, it would require loan owners to be authorised and regulated as credit servicing firms. Departmental officials have been in contact with the Central Bank and with Deputy McGrath following Committee Stage and we hope to progress to Report Stage shortly. We must be careful that any actions we take to further protect borrowers whose loans are sold do not have unintended consequences for the banks, their relationship with the regulator and all our citizens who depend on a functioning banking system in their day-to-day lives.

Therefore, it is not incumbent on the Government to introduce this legislation since it has already been introduced and discussed at the committee chaired by Deputy McGuinness. I am glad that we have had the opportunity to discuss this important topic and we can agree to the motion, subject to the amendment proposed in respect of ceasing all engagement with unregulated funds. Deputy McGuinness is absolutely within his authority to continue with Deputy McGrath's Bill. The Central Bank of Ireland is independent of us and we are independent of it. It is a matter for the committee to progress if the Chairman sees fit, prior to receiving an opinion from the ECB.

I have said here previously that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, has not met representatives of any of the private equity funds and neither have I. The banks are in profit and will not be paying taxes because of the deferred tax assets but they pay a levy of €100 million every year and that is a matter for the Government and the Oireachtas to increase or decrease as they see fit. I want to nail one incorrect statement that is made all the time and it is important that this Oireachtas does not perpetuate it. It is said we have not done enough, "we" being both of these Houses. There have been 17 actions, by which I mean legislation and guidelines, starting with the code of conduct for mortgage arrears and moving to the mortgage arrears resolution process, MARP, since 2011. That is one action every six months. We have protected and are protecting the borrowers of this State more than anybody else in any jurisdiction, certainly in Europe, that I know of.

We have the lowest levels of repossessions in Europe. There have been approximately 8,000 repossessions, many of which were voluntary, through the courts or not, over the past decade. That is too many and nobody in this or the other Chamber or any public representative who I know wants to see a repossession in this State but some loans are unsustainable. We have to accept that is the case. Some people will not come out from under those loans. That is why we moved the insolvency legislation in this House from 12 years to one year. That was the right thing to do. There is an opportunity for people in a financial situation that is not sustainable to use that legislation to their benefit in order that they can re-start in business from zero.

I find it hard to listen to the Minister of State talking about insolvency legislation and what it protects and does not. It is absolutely useless because the Government allowed a bank veto. It was a waste of time.

Deputy McGuinness pointed out that there were 125 meetings with vulture funds between 2013 and 2016 but that they would not meet the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. The Minister of State's efforts to address that do not amount to much. He stated, "The principal rationale for the Department’s routine engagement with such funds is that it allows the Department to obtain market intelligence from firms that have invested in or will invest in the Irish economy". The Minister of State should give us a break. He boasts of how neither he nor the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, have met these people. Could the previous Minister for Finance make the same boast because most of this happened on his watch? He could not have.

To digress for a minute, in the budget in 2013 the Government set up legislation that allowed the formation of real estate investment trusts, REITs. On 16 January 2014, I said in here to the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan:

The Government might view real estate investment trusts, REITs, as a quick fix measure to get rid of properties on the books of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, and the banks, but questions must be asked about the increased corporatisation of property, with little financial gain for the State. REITs are not taxed on their rental income as long as they pay 85% of it to their shareholders as a dividend, they are exempt from corporation tax as long as their income relates to rental income and non-resident investors are also exempt from Irish capital gains tax. There must surely be implications for the rental market in the years ahead.

The Minister assured me:

it is not expected that REIT ownership of property will reach the level of concentration at which a distortion of competition in the market may occur. ... it is expected that rental values in the Irish market should continue to be determined by normal market forces and not by the presence or absence of REIT landlords. ... I also wish to highlight to the Deputy that potential benefits for property tenants were a motivating factor in the introduction of the REIT framework ... It is hoped that the introduction of this type of professional property management into the Irish market will, in the long term, help to standardise and improve management standards across the rental property sector as a whole, which would be of benefit to both investors and tenants.

I replied:

The Minister says that the amount of property held by REITs around the world tends to be small. However, given that such a bank of property is going to flood our market from NAMA and the banks in the next few years, that will probably not remain so here. The rationale behind REITs is to allow people to invest in property without having to manage it themselves. It is a stockmarket version of absentee landlordism. The investors do not have to pay a lot of tax but are buying up large sections of property here.

Those investment funds and vulture funds have bought up a huge section of Ireland at a huge cost to the Irish people. There is a difference between a vulture fund and an investment fund but neither of them tends to behave very well. Vulture funds probably have been more aggressive in that such a fund tends to buy stressed assets and move them on fairly quickly. I have heard the Minister of State imply in the past that one could make a deal with them but I have had some direct dealings with a serious vulture fund and they are not very nice people to deal with. In the case of the REITs, Deputy McGuinness spoke about the 125 meetings the vulture funds had with the Department of Finance.

According to freedom of information, Mr. Bill Nolan had 67 meetings in two years in these Houses at which he lobbied. Did the Department and Ministers not have anything else to? It was obviously worth Mr. Nolan's while. I repeat that he had 67 meetings in two years. How mad is that? Despite this, the Government cannot get these same people to attend a meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. Does it support the committees or view them as a hindrance? Does it support them only when in opposition? It beggars belief that the Government thinks it is alright that these guys, who have had such influence on what has gone on in Ireland in recent years, should not have to answer questions. That is not fair, although I understand why they do not come in here. It is because they would not like their behaviour to be scrutinised. I also understand why the Government is not pushed about them having to come in here to be held to account. It is because that would completely expose the Government. The Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, can shake his head all he likes. The truth will out in time. I will not name people in the Chamber in connection with people making connections with the Department of Finance and organising for some deals to go ahead. As I said, the truth will out in time and it will not be good for the Department of Finance. I assure the Government of that.

The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, referred to "the potential harm flowing from this element of the motion in terms of promoting Ireland as a good place to do business and to make investments". I am bemused by that statement. I do not know how some of these comments can be made with a straight face. The Minister of State continued:

However, while Members of the House have alluded to evidence that has been provided to them on misbehaviour, the report itself does not produce any such evidence. The report states anecdotal evidence suggests that a disproportionate number of complaints made to public representatives by mortgage holders are mortgage holders whose loans are now owned by vulture funds.

My God. Deputy McGuinness pointed out that the confidence and supply arrangement includes a promise to protect the family home. Will the Minister of State be honest and admit the Government has failed to protect the family home? I know many people who have lost their homes and many others who will lose them in the future. That is the truth. Why does the Government pretend that is not the case? I do not understand that. Who does it think it is kidding? The Irish people know that the vulture funds have wreaked untold damage across this island.

They have made a fortune at the expense of the Irish people. They bought loans from NAMA for peanuts, paid a bribe to get Project Eagle in the North and we are fine with that. God help us. What will the history books tell us? I hope they detail statements the Government made in this House in its efforts to defend what has taken place. I remember begging Fine Gael and the Labour Party several times in 2015 not to sell Project Arrow or allow NAMA to continue with the sale of those loans to Cerberus. The loans in Project Arrow had a par value of more than €6 billion and it was sold for €800 million. The sale included approximately 2,000 units and all of those properties are in the Republic of Ireland. We had a housing crisis in 2015 and before that as well. Why did the Government allow that to happen? NAMA belongs to the State. When the agency was set up we were told its purpose was to place assets in cold storage and sell them only when the market had recovered. They were then sold for a fraction of their value way ahead of time. I am convinced that the behaviour of NAMA has cost the State between €20 billion and €25 billion, at a minimum. That the Government allowed that to happen is terrible.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue. I apologise on behalf of Deputy Michael McGrath who could not attend this debate, which has given me the opportunity to speak on the motion. As with Deputies McGuinness and Wallace, this has also been one of the main issues raised by my constituents since my election. The issue is how people are being treated. I also agree with Deputy McGuinness that the Dáil should have been recalled during the summer recess to discuss the sale of Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank loans. We know that 10,700 mortgages were sold to Start Mortgages, which is owned by Lone Star, while Ulster Bank has announced the sale of 5,200 mortgages to Cerberus, consisting of 2,300 family home mortgages and 2,900 buy-to-let loans.

It is also important to note that the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, in its report on engagement with vulture funds, called on Apollo, CarVal, Cerberus Capital, Lone Star Europe, Oaktree Capital and Starwood Capital to appear before it. The report recommended that the Government cease engagement with all unregulated loan owners or vulture funds until such time as these entities agree to meet with the joint committee for the purposes outlined in its report. It then recommends that the Government introduce legislation to provide for the regulation of entities that are currently unregulated loan owners operating in the Irish mortgage market.

Listening to previous contributions, a number of clichés sprung to mind, notably that we are elected by the people to protect the people and to be the voice of the people. That is what I consider to be my role this evening. I am experiencing what the joint committee tried to articulate in its report. It wants to achieve transparency and accountability and seeks reassurance about the role of vulture funds in the Irish market. How will we protect the owners of the 11,314 principal dwelling homes and 6,778 buy-to-let properties affected? We talk about houses and buy-to-lets but inside every one of those four walls are families or individuals. We are talking about people living in communities where their children attend school and where they work. Now there is uncertainty. Deputy Wallace spoke very well about the number of people facing repossession. That is what we are facing with the figures I am staring at. This is already happening.

It is disingenuous not to support the motion put forward by the Chairman of the joint committee, Deputy John McGuinness. It is incumbent on the Government to rethink its position. Amendments have been withdrawn because people have had second thoughts. I will certainly not support the Government amendment. It is important to remember what Deputy McGuinness said. I do not often refer to the confidence and supply arrangement. This may be the first time I have referred to it in the two and half years since the Fianna Fáil Party engaged in it.

There is a commitment in the confidence and supply arrangement to provide greater protection for mortgage holders, tenants and SMEs whose loans have been transferred to non-regulated entities, also known as vulture funds. I am the voice of the people of my area and want to protect them, like everyone else here.

On the large-scale loan sale by banks to unregulated loan owners, the joint committee undertook to invite these investment funds to appear before it to discuss the approach taken to mortgage arrears and distressed loans. It could not have been more simple; the clerk to the committee wrote a letter and invited the investment funds to appear before the committee in order that they could explain what was going on. It wanted to find out what the plan was, what strategy the funds had and what their motivation was, and how they were going to look after the families affected. The committee wrote to the funds most recently on 11 April, I believe, and each of the six funds I named earlier declined to appear before it. None came forward to give any form of reassurance or to provide transparency. It beggars belief that those funds were able to meet behind closed doors. What was discussed behind closed doors that cannot be discussed at committee? Many people and groups have appeared before the committee since I was elected, and I have seen heads roll out of committees. Why is there such secrecy involved in this instance? They are putting doubts into our heads as to what we are dealing with. Deputy Wallace put the matter very eloquently. He asked what there is to hide. I have doubts which have been copper-fastened by the fact that there is an amendment to this motion this evening. This should cease.

Fianna Fáil believes the banks should be working through their loan books on a case by case basis instead of outsourcing the dirty work to unregulated and unaccountable vulture funds. Through Deputy Michael McGrath we have introduced legislation that will regulate these loan owners, as the Central Bank had originally intended to do. The Government has accepted this legislation, and it is working its way through the Dáil, as the Minister of State D'Arcy said. That said, the refusal of these funds to appear before the joint committee is an affront to democratic accountability. It is even more obscene in circumstances where these funds had no problem with meeting the Department.

It is unfortunate that this motion is being taken on the graveyard shift. We have had some great debates on the graveyard shift, but it is a pity that this one, the content of which hits every county and community in the country, was listed at this time. There was a time when people believed that repossessions happened because people did not pay their loans. I am currently working on the case of a couple who, for the last five years, through all their distress, have negotiated and reduced their repayments to €315 per month. That might sound like a small amount; it is very large for this family. I met with them when this situation with Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank arose. They were very nervous, and so I went to their house. In fairness, I also got one of the fund managers to come with me to meet them. The loan these people had taken out had been sold on to Cerberus. They were reassured that paperwork would follow within a week and that they could get an extension for sixth months, allowing them to investigate other avenues, such as rent-to-buy. They rang my office last night to tell me that the paperwork has not arrived, but that they had received a call to say their loan repayments have increased to €1,200 per month. They will miss three of those payments, and by missing them it means they will renege on their deal. The black mark is out. The company managing the loan is not regulated - it can do what it wants. That is the fact of the matter.

We should support this motion, which proposes that until such time as these funds appear before the committee all engagement should cease.

I warmly welcome the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. The figures contained in the report are astounding. There are 18,000 mortgages, valued at €3.9 billion, currently in the hands of unregulated vulture funds. Thousands of family homes, rental properties, businesses and family farms across the country are in the grip of these funds. The business model of the vulture funds is very simple. They seek to profit from asset-stripping. They buy in bulk at knock-down prices and maximise the return they can get. They buy cheap, grind out a profit and leave. I have heard of cases in my own county where the funds have bought at a rate of 25 cent to the euro and then pursued the individual family for up to 80 cent or 90 cent to the euro. It is totally wrong that such a system should be in place. It is not a system, unfortunately, that has emerged by accident; it was designed and created by the Government.

I will give an example of one family in my county. The McCann brothers bought 38 acres of land in Meath a decade ago. Unfortunately, like many others they bought at the top of the market and got into financial difficulties subsequently. They offered around 20 acres as a security to Ulster Bank, and the loan was then sold to a vulture fund. The vulture fund sought to sell the 38 acres, including the 20 acres given as security, at auction. The family had no prior knowledge that the land was going to auction. In fact, the credit servicing firm was negotiating with them at the time it was put up for auction. It was described as vacant land when it was put up for auction; it clearly was not. Once the land was sold the vulture fund sought to pursue the family for any outstanding debt. To try to fix the problem the McCann's sold the family farm and paid out approximately €80,000 from that. The home of another brother was remortgaged, and approximately €150,000 from that went towards paying the mortgage. In addition, a site on the land was sold and the proceeds handed over to the bank to bring down the amount owed. The family has approached the credit servicing firms with a repayment package on top of all this, but today its debt level is almost exactly what it was on the first day. After all those changes it owes roughly the same money it borrowed. The Irish Farmers Association has been helping, and the family has put forward further proposals that would see part of the land sold by way of a voluntary sale rather than forced sale.

It is incredible to think that if the vulture fund accepted the new deal and let the McCann family stay farming it would still be getting double the amount of money it paid Ulster Bank for the loan. The level of asset stripping is mind-blowing. The vulture fund would double the money it paid for the loan yet it is still not satisfied with it.

I remember standing in front of the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, around four years ago. We were horrified at Fine Gael's plans regarding these vulture funds. I told the Deputy that it did not make any sense to sell these properties at knock-down prices to vulture funds. I suggested that the families, businesses or farmers who owned these properties should be given the chance to buy the properties at roughly the same price, given that they had invested their lives in them. I suggested that if the businesses and farmers were given the chance to buy it would ensure that jobs would not be lost, and that if families had the chance to buy people would not be added to the homeless register. Deputy Noonan rejected that logic. I felt that he was telling them to get stuffed.

At the heart of this are families, just like ours. These families are caught up in an all-consuming catastrophe. They are being mentally and physically tortured. While the family I spoke about is doing its best to fight through the problem, we know of families around the country which have not been able to fight through it and who are no longer with us. They are the victims of the policies the Government has followed.

When we get answers to questions on this issue it is often the case that Fine Gael Deputies wring their hands and offer, in soothing tones, their efforts to ameliorate the damage that is being done by the vulture funds. However, the stark truth of the matter is that the vulture funds are an economic tool the Government has employed within the economy.

The Government has invited these funds into both the market and the economy. It has invited them into family homes and farms throughout the country. It is a tool the Government is seeking to use. Deputy Noonan said that vultures carry out a very good service in ecology. It is startling. Fine Gael's policies are often brutal and cruel. While they have better marketing and branding than the Tories in Britain, there is very little difference in the damage that they do.

Sometimes Deputies finish up late, go home and forget about what has happened during the day. However, it is really important to realise that our decisions and votes as Deputies lead to effects on other human beings. We are directly and personally responsible for what happens to those other human beings as a result of the decisions we make here. For too long people have tried to isolate and insulate themselves from the damage that has been done. Fine Gael Deputies are directly responsible for these families due to the tools they are using.

It is astounding. Some of the people trying to unwind their problems with vulture funds find the vulture funds will not talk to them. I tell them that the vulture funds will not talk to us. It is incredible that the vulture funds are giving two fingers to the Oireachtas and the elected representatives in Leinster House by refusing to come before the committee. They know that they are untouchable because Fine Gael has made them so. As a result, they simply ignore the invitations issued by joint committee.

The vulture funds are not shy, however. They are well able to talk, and when they get an opportunity to talk to decision-makers directly, out of the public glare, that is what they do. The report shows that vulture funds met with the Department of Finance 125 times in the past few years. They are giving the elected members two fingers but they have open access to the Department of Finance. It is incredible that this is happening. I understand that the Minister of State routinely meets companies that would be considered vulture funds though their interests may not be in residential property. I commend the joint committee and its Chairman on publishing this report. The information in it is striking.

The committee recommends that the Government introduces legislation to provide for the regulation of entities that are currently unregulated, the loan owners operating in the Irish market. Three years and four months ago, I sat on the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and I made exactly the same proposal in a piece of legislation. Only two members of that committee voted for that proposal, Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett and myself. Unfortunately Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party voted against it. I know that there are exceptions within Fianna Fáil with regard to this particular issue. It is really important that we intervene here. Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael can step in and intervene. It is also important to mention that while it will help, regulation is not a silver bullet. Far from it. To stop the vultures we have to stop feeding them. The Minister is in a position to stop feeding them through his influence over the banks and the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA. It is important to draw a line and say that no more of this will happen in the future. Again, I ask the Minister to do that; to actually use his influence for the people the Government represents rather than for business interests.

In so many aspects of Irish society, whether it is housing, banking, health, the issues surrounding Moore Street or even education, Fine Gael's natural instinct is to defer to the private sector all the time. The private sector has an important role to play in this country. We need to have commercial activity in this country for the country to function. However, we do not have to defer to it on all occasions. The market is not always the solution to these issues, especially the distorted market that the Government has created.

I am delighted to have a chance to comment on this motion on the report on engagement with investment funds. I commend the joint committee and its Chairman on bringing this matter to the attention of the House and for publishing this short and very important report on how we, as representatives of the people, are treated.

Over the last month or two we have probably all met many constituents who were absolutely stunned to find that their mortgages had been transferred from Permanent TSB to a vulture fund, a non-bank entity. The Minister of State has probably met them himself in east Cork. People are in incredible distress over what will happen in the future or if they have any history of being out of work or getting into difficulty with mortgages. That is the reality. Looking at the report, the statistical release of the Central Bank on 7 September confirms the very good reasons for such anxieties. The banks are responsible for 72% of mortgages on principal dwelling homes in arrears for more than 720 days. It should have been their core role as pillar banks to work out those arrears with the mortgage-holders. Unregulated entities own 18% of those loans. Non-bank entities own a further 10%. Moreover, banks own 75% of principal home mortgages in arrears for more than 90 days. Again, 13% are owned by unregulated entities and 12% by non-bank entities.

Under the leadership of the Chairman of the joint committee, many of our fellow citizens are expecting us to take urgent steps about this. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, says it is regrettable these companies did not come before the committee. I am a former member of that committee. It is not regrettable, it is totally unacceptable. It is an insult to this House and to the people who sent us here that Deputy McGuinness and his colleagues should not be able to hold these companies to account. If there is a need for legislation, let us legislate. We stayed up all night two or three times in this Dáil and the last one to bring in terrible austerity measures. Why is there not the same sense of urgency in this regard?

I know the Minister of State is probably busy. When he was here, he said that compellability powers are already available to Oireachtas committees in certain circumstances under the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013. He then went on to say we should avoid debating that today. An amendment about compellability was proposed to give the Dáil and our colleagues on the Committee on Public Accounts, that most constitutionally important committee in this House which looks into State spending, powers of compellability. That was brought in by the Minister of State's austerity Government. It was around the same time that it wanted to abolish Seanad Éireann.

The austerity Government made no attempt to convince the public of the utter necessity of compellability powers, as is apparent in this matter. I therefore strongly agree with the conclusion in section 13 of the report in which the committee states that the legal lacuna concerning the Central Bank and vulture funds must be plugged. We have to bring in legislation in this regard. It represents a gap in the current legislative framework. Section 16 rightly concurs with the Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Philip Lane, holding that vulture funds have a social responsibility to be accountable to Parliament.

That being the case, we should not even have to have this debate. More than 18,000 Irish mortgage holders are customers of this unregulated fund, with a value of almost €4 billion. There is no question that such a large body of our fellow citizens expect us to be able to regulate one of the most important areas of their lives, namely, the mortgages on their homes.

The Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2015 provides for how credit servicing firms are regulated and it is worth noting, as outlined in section 3, that people whose loans are sold from credit servicing firms to unregulated entities "maintain the regulatory protections they had prior to the sale, including the protections provided by the Central Bank's statutory Codes of Conduct" and the code of conduct for mortgage arrears. We saw earlier this summer, the great distress and worry caused by the Project Glas sale. This was a portfolio of approximately 10,700 properties. In reply to a parliamentary question on 7 of September, the Minister told me he expected the Central Bank's report on its review of the code of conduct for mortgage arrears by the end of this month. Is this still on schedule? Will we see the review? The Minister of State might come back to this.

The reply to another parliamentary question on the same date informed me the Minister and his officials had met the chair of the supervisory board of the ECB and had discussed the treatment of split mortgages as non-performing loans and requested that they would be recategorised. It is a sad indictment of lack of autonomy that the European banking authority gave a strict Europe-wide definition of non-performing loans which means that certain restructures are deemed to be non-performing loans even if customers are meeting the revised payment schedule. We have all been contacted by many upset customers who feel great anxiety and distress at this time.

I agree with the many constituents who strongly assert that the securitisation of loans on principal family homes should be abolished and forbidden in law by this House. As Judy Garland said in "The Wizard of Oz", and which is featuring in an advertisement at present, there is no place like home. Earlier, the Chairman of the joint committee referred to the idea of somebody's contract to pay back the debt on the family home being sold, interfered with it and transferred to a non-Irish-based company as totally outrageous. It is something we need to address. The securitisation and financialisation of key elements of the lives of citizens and families has been one of the most disgraceful practices of Thatcherism and globalisation since the 1980s. As the economist Mariana Mazucatto notes in her famous books, The Entrepreneurial State and The Value of Everything, increasingly over the past 40 years, national governments withdrew from necessary regulatory functions, often in industries the states themselves had established and in which they had a primary interest. One of our primary interests is to ensure every Irish family and citizen has a home. We had an emotional debate about this on Tuesday evening and we will have another one next Wednesday. Everybody wants to deal with the desperate housing and homelessness situation we have. It is incredible that the securitisation of family homes is permitted. This is a huge lacuna.

Families who are devastated by the recent decision of Permanent TSB to offload many of their home loans, with some fearful of becoming homeless, are looking to this House to remedy the situation urgently with regard to vulture funds. The finance committee has made a reasonable request to us that we should not engage with these funds until legislation is passed that will make them subject to our regulation and the regulation of the people whom we represent. The Governor of the Central Bank, Philip Lane, also has a grave responsibility in this regard. The Chairman of the finance committee has tried to advance the situation whereby we can protect and keep people in their own homes. The Governor refused to intervene in the recent Project Glas sale and in other sales to vulture funds in recent years. Restoring those in the pillar banks to their pre-crash salaries and restoring other excesses, to which the Chairman of the finance committee has referred, seems to be the key driving force in the Central Bank's administration of our financial system. It was we who restored those pillar banks and, therefore, it is we, on behalf of our people, who have the right to call the tune.

Colleagues have referred to the Fine Gael austerity Governments, led economically by Deputy Michael Noonan, which have embedded the current appalling securitisation culture in our mortgage market. I hope the forthcoming general election will end this era of non-accountability and shocking cavalier treatment of householders and mortgage payers and make all bank and non-bank entities subject to the regulation of the House and its finance committee.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the motion. I listened to all of the contributions made on the issue and I appreciate where colleagues are coming from on it. It is only right and proper that firms doing significant levels of business in Ireland, and which have a significant impact on the daily lives of large numbers of people and are subject to the laws of the land, have due respect for the democratic institutions of the State. This is why we have tabled the proposed amendment to the motion calling on investment funds to engage with the joint committee as a matter of urgency and to attend the joint committee when invited.

I agree, as does the Government, that funds and other firms should pay due respect to the committee and attend before it, when invited. I hope this is clear. It is the main point we are all making, that the committee would be able to engage and question the funds. This is the end result we want. Officials in the Department of Finance have strongly advocated in meetings with these funds that they should appear before the committee.

I was the Chairman of a committee for four or five years. We must look at how we treat witnesses when they appear before committees and whether any changes to the style of seeking information should be considered to encourage witnesses to attend voluntarily. Nobody likes to be attacked and shouted at. We need to look at this. Perhaps speaking softly and asking precise questions can bring precise answers. People making speeches and grandstanding for the soundbite does not work. I am not saying this happens at the finance committee by any means but I have seen it happen at some committees. Perhaps it would be better to have precise, focused and incisive questions to get at the nub of an issue rather than making Second Stage speeches which I have seen happen at many committee meetings. It is what I tried to encourage as Chairman of the justice committee and I believe it worked pretty well.

Other things could be done to explore ways for committees to advance the issue. The term "vulture funds" has been used quite a bit during the debate. This has come to take on a pejorative meaning in discussions on loan sales. People who work for these funds, including the witnesses whom the committee would wish to attend, would not describe themselves as being employed by a vulture fund. The committee may wish to consider whether the tone of the report is likely to help or hinder the future attendance of such witnesses.

The recommendation that the Government should "cease all engagement with unregulated private investment funds and regulated credit service firms until these entities are accountable to Parliament" has already been addressed to a large extent by the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, in his opening speech. I echo his points. It is in the interest of the State that we should continue to engage with these funds. Otherwise, how can we get them to change their minds about appearing? Also, engagement with private equity funds allows the Department of Finance and other Government bodies to develop market intelligence to allow better policy development. As has been noted, such communication and interaction with private equity firms is a two-way process, in that officials and Ministers can communicate what various Government policies mean in order to demonstrate that Ireland is a good place for such funds to invest.

There is also a worrying lack of clarity in the motion as formulated. It could have multiple unintended consequences because of how it is worded. It could be interpreted as prohibiting contact with all kinds of funds that may have legitimate reasons for wishing to invest in Ireland and to engage with the Government on multiple levels. There are sound policy reasons this engagement should take place. Many of these funds have no dealings with Irish consumers or mortgages and have a solely international focus. It is important that motions and legislation drafted and put before the House are practical, realistic and clear and that they can be implemented in a straightforward way.

I urge the committee to use the powers it has to explore matters of concern and to ensure that the consideration of the topic is as thorough as possible. For example, there is much discussion about non-banks being most aggressive in repossessing properties but the figures on repossessions indicate clearly that most repossessions are undertaken by banks. The full-year figures for 2017, for example, indicate that of 1,417 principal dwelling homes repossessed, only 148 were repossessed by non-banks and 1,269 were repossessed by banks. The Central Bank has a wealth of data on this and it accepts invitations to attend the committee. The Central Bank is also willing to accept any evidence of wrongdoing by regulated entities, including regulated credit servicing firms. I urge the committee to consider how best to inform itself on this issue in the absence of witnesses making themselves available to attend before it. The committee could also consider seeking written answers to the questions it wishes to pose, if it has not done so. I am not sure if that has happened and perhaps the Chairman will tell us when he sums up.

To conclude, the Government considers that these funds should attend before the committee but that prohibition of all engagement with investment funds would be counterproductive and is also too loosely worded to be practical. It has, therefore, tabled an amendment, which I commend to the House.

I say to the Minister of State here and the absent Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, that their response is shocking.

They are living in a bubble and do not understand what is happening.

Here we go again.

Their arrogance is such that they have decided to lecture the committee on process and proper presentation of a motion.

Here we go again.

Members of the Minister of State's party are members of this committee. There was unanimous agreement on the content of the motion. It has been placed before the House in a proper manner. It calls for certainty within an unregulated market. The Minister of State has addressed these matters in an attempt to mislead the people who may be listening by telling us about what we should or should not do, the Department and getting involved with a red herring. We are not talking about investment funds that make positive investments in the country; we are talking about vulture funds that come in to buy what is on the market at the lowest possible rate while treating people abominably. The Minister of State wishes to dress down the committee, saying we should ask representatives of these vulture funds to come before us. At the same time, they are beating up those who took out these mortgages.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte illustrated the human face of this matter, relaying how people, including families with young children, are involved in this process. People have lost their lives through suicide because of this. That is a fact. The IFA is now taking this seriously and is engaging on the matter. What more evidence does the Government need about vulture funds when we can see repossessions going on all over the country? People are appearing at repossessions with balaclavas and dogs. What kind of society is the Government allowing to be created by people who are not even from this country? They have come here for no other reason but to profit off the backs of the people with distressed mortgages. When those distressed individuals turn to the Government, its only response is the pathetic content of the Minister of State's speech. He tried to personalise the issue, singling me out over the committee. He also sought to lecture the committee on what it should do.

We have provided the report to this House based on witnesses testimony and fact. We have the letter from the Central Bank that indicates, if we read between the gobbledygook, that it does not want to regulate vulture funds. In a visit by a committee delegation to the ECB over the past few weeks, we found that its officials never told the Irish banks to reduce their exposure to bad loans from 26%, and in some cases to 5%. They never instructed the banks in Ireland to sell to the vulture funds. They asked the banks to work out the loans with the individuals concerned but the banks want to outsource the dirty, grubby work of repossessions and to drag families through the courts. All we have to do is look at how the banks presented the sales during the recess. There were thousands of them. As Deputy Broughan noted, people had agreements and arrangements with banks but the banks decided to go against the ECB. For example, if part of a loan had to be warehoused, it was classed as a non-performing loan and it had to go. Shame on the Minister of State and shame on the Minister for Finance for attempting to throw up a smokescreen in front of the members of this committee in this debate.

Let us look at what is happening. The vulture funds and the banks do not pay tax. The Minister of State has suggested we speak softly and nicely to the witnesses who might appear before the committee. However, he does not recognise the fact that those same witnesses are probably part of an entity that is beating up the citizens of the State and making their lives a misery by dragging them through the courts, as lay litigants in some cases. Children are watching parents trying to defend their family home. Is that what the Minister of State is happy with? If there were 125 meetings in the Department of Finance, how many recent meetings were held in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on housing projects involving vulture funds? That question must be answered. The Government is going about its business in a State where it is watched. The general public knows damn well what is going on.

We bailed out the banks and, in one case, a bank sold almost 700 houses to a vulture fund called Cerberus. The State then purchased those 700 houses, not at the knock-down price or a price with a bit of added value for the fund over the original purchase price, but at market value. The Government then had the neck to include those figures in the Rebuilding Ireland acquisition figures. The vulture funds, the banks and all the entities other than the family have gained on the double or treble even just in that instance. Does the Government believe that is okay? The Minister of State suggested we write to agents of the vulture funds and ask them questions but we are fed up of writing on behalf of the Irish people to agents of vulture funds. We are fed up of the heavy-handed activity of the same funds. We are fed up of the language they use with their customers in attempting to gain the last pound of flesh from them. The people they condemn with a poor quality of life are appealing to us to intervene.

If the Government agrees with the confidence and supply arrangement and says it will bring forward legislation to protect SME business loans and the homes of individuals and families, why do we not see the results? Why, just before we into a third budget with this Government, did Deputy Michael McGrath have to bring forward such legislation?

That was the reply from Department of Finance officials at the committee. In case the Minister of State thinks we did not ask all of the questions, we did. There are approximately four levels of regulation for these firms and the Department tells us that if we were to regulate them, it would probably be at the lowest level of regulation. That is not what we want. We want to see proper upfront regulation. We want the vulture funds to appear by right before the committee. We do not want, as the Minister of State does, to engage with them to try to get them to respond to him or deal with him on a softly, softly basis. How dare he question the way in which witnesses are treated at the committee? I have seen witnesses being treated properly before committees of the House, some of whom had to be treated in the way they were because they had not been forthcoming with any information. The people have a right to expect us to deal with matters in the way we see fit to get to the truth and answers.

I again ask the Minister of State to acknowledge positively the work of the joint committee and what it is trying to do; that the stories we have been telling him or that he states are merely being told generally are, in fact, real; that lives have been lost; that people have lost their homes and are under threat. He should go to the courts to see how many are lined up and going through a process that is unfamiliar to them and desperate to try to save their homes. They have the support of Abhaile and the sum of €250, but then one looks at the banks which are represented by solicitors and barristers, both senior counsel and junior counsel. One point made by the Sinn Féin spokesperson is that one cannot get information from them. They will leave someone to hang and sweat it out. They will not proactively try to resolve issues. It is shame on the Government if the Minister of State does not engage proactively to bring about a situation where not only will they be accountable but where they will have respect for this House and the people.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 4 October 2018.

The Dáil adjourned at 7.05 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 2 October 2018.