Complete index to the Banking Redress Focus Group before the Finance Committee, 2023-07-05

John McGuinness - Fianna Fáil - Carlow-Kilkenny - Chair

McGuinness opens the meeting.

Patrick Starkey - Redress Focus Group - Opening statement

Rebuild scenarios where property will not be restored to full market value is an issue for the banks.

Sean McCabe - Redress Focus Group - Opening statement

Banks should not profit from misfortune of homeowners

Donna McDade - Redress Focus Group - Opening statement

Irish banks, Ombudsman, Irish Central Bank, European Central Bank show indifference, lack of urgency, lack of empathy and lack of ethics as they continue profiteering off homeowners facing mortgage, rent, storage costs, credit union loans and cost of living crisis all at the same time

Sarah Shovlin - Redress Focus Group

Govrnment and banks are completely disjointed in relation to the workings of the scheme. Bison slabs supported by 2 Newton blocks. Sarah found out with surprise about clause in contract stating demolition is an immediate default on mortgage. Banks not informing homeowners is a dereliction of duty. Banks lack understanding of the scheme. Banks should not profit from a humanitarian disaster.

Jim O'Callaghan - Fianna Fáil - Dublin Bay South

Have banks used the immediate default in event of demolition clause against a homeowner?

Patrick Starkey

Jim O'Callaghan

Do homeowners want this clause removed from contracts?

Patrick Sharkey

Jim O'Callaghan

You would've thought that it's in the interests of the banks to ensure properties are remedied properly as it's their underlying security?

Sean McCabe

Jim O'Callaghan

Should gov intervene in mortgage between homeowner and bank or should banks amend the damage clause?

Sean McCabe

Jim O'Callaghan

Hasn't there been satisfactory engagement from the banks?

Sean McCabe

Jim O'Callaghan

Have the banks got designated staff to deal with the scheme?

Sean McCabe

Jim O'Callaghan

Donna, you were annoyed that in response to a letter to the bank, the bank recognised your situation as a commercial opportunity and offered you further financial products at normal commercial rates?

Donna McDade

Jim O'Callaghan

Donna, when was your home demolished?

Donna McDade

Jim O'Callaghan

Is the scheme proceeding according to the timeline you hoped for?

Donna McDade

Sean McCabe

Donna McDade

Sean McCabe

Jim O'Callaghan

What do you want to see the banks do?

Sean McCabe

Jim O'Callaghan

Sarah, you said banks should treat all owners of defective block homes as vulnerable customers. Do you feel you're being treated as a vulnerable customer?

Sarah Shovlin

Jim O'Callaghan

You're not getting the benefit of the banking framework that was put in place 3 years ago?

Sarah Shovlin

Jim O'Callaghan

Is there anyone in the EBS in charge of this?

Sarah Shovlin

Jim O'Callaghan

You don't believe you're getting treated as a vulnerable considering the trauma of losing your home?

Sarah Shovlin

Donna McDade

Jim O'Callaghan

The banks are not distinguishing you at all?

Donna McDade

Sean McCabe

Patrick Sharkey

Jim O'Callaghan

The banks are not recognising the scheme is in their interests too?

Patrick Sharkey

Pearse Doherty - Sinn Fein - Donegal

Does the new scheme published yesterday leave you with a shortfall when trying to remediate your homes?

Patrick Sharkey

Pearse Doherty

Have you personal experience of people who won't be able to remediate their homes in full under the revised scheme?

Patrick Sharkey

Donna McDade

Pearse Doherty

Donna, even the revised scheme will leave you short?

Donna McDade

Pearse Doherty

That's a massive amount (shortfall) when you put it in context but will you move into a remediated house "the way you left it"?

Donna McDade

Pearse Doherty

You're a victim in this, but you're "lucky" in the sense that you're in a position to get a high-interest loan - not a loan at mortgage rates though ...

Donna McDade

Pearse Doherty

How is a pensioner going to get a loan for a shortfall?

Sarah Shovlin

Pearse Doherty

Do you think the banks realise that their demolition clause, meaning that the banks have to consent to a homeowner demolishing the banks' asset and that the scheme must restore that asset, puts a duty on the banks to provide a bespoke financial product that includes zero interest bridging finance but also finance for shortfalls?

Patrick Sharkey

Pearse Doherty

In your view, in addition to zero finance bridging loans, what should the banks do for the shortfall resulting from the scheme not providing for a genuine 100% redress taking?

Patrick Sharkey

Pearse Doherty

Do you know if the banks have concerns that building on foundations that are not being restored will lead to an asset that will not achieve full market value?

Patrick Sharkey

Sarah Shovlin

Pearse Doherty

Have you had any discussions with the banks of whether they sold or bought homes at a reduced value as as a result of potentially having defective blocks [which would involve profits if homes do get remediated]?

Patrick Sharkey

Rose Conway-Walsh - Sinn Fein - Mayo

Has there been any formal movement by the banks regarding your situation with the banks since day one?

Donna McDade

Rose Conway-Walsh

Are the banks making money of the backs of people who are impacted by defective blocks?

Sarah Shovlin

Sean McCabe

Donna McDade

Patrick Sharkey

Sean McCabe

Rose Conway-Walsh

Could you speak to the conflict between a home with defective blocks being, on the one hand, valued as worthless and fit for demolition while at the same time being considered to be worth the full market value by the banks?

Sarah Shovlin

Donna McDade

Sean McCabe

Patrick Sharkey

Rose Conway-Walsh

I asked the Taoiseach Varadkar about engineers coercing homeowners to accept a partial remediation, which he didn't answer. How do you think it could be ensured that that doesn't happen?

Sean McCabe

Rose Conway-Walsh

Are there going to be different tiers in how people will be treated in the scheme in that those, who do not have the money to fund any shortfall for a properly remediated home, will be coerced into accepting a partial not-fit-for-purpose remediation?

Patrick Sharkey

Rose Conway-Walsh

Did any of you apply for the SEAI scheme?

Donna McDade

Rose Conway-Walsh

Are you coming up with a problem with the MPRN [the number of an electricity meter] number?

Donna McDade

Rose Conway-Walsh

The reason I ask about the MPRN number is because homeowners in Mayo are finding out that if they'd applied for an SEAI grant in the past, which is lodged against their MPRN number, they cannot apply for the same SEAI grant during the remediation of their home now?

Sarah Shovlin

Rose Conway-Walsh

Sarah Shovlin

Rose Conway-Walsh

Conway-Walsh thanks Banking Focus Redress Group members

Sarah Shovlin

Bernard Durkan - Fine Gael - Kildare North - Vice chair

Damien English - Fine Gael - Meath West

English was allowed by the Vice-chair, Bernard Durkan, to make a long statement and ask several questions. Durkan did NOT invite the homeowners to respond to English. At first I thought this could be because English is not a member of the Finance committee, but in fact he actually is a member (https://www.oireachtas.ie/.../finance-public.../membership/). One could be forgiven for thinking that Durkan was allowing the promotion of Fine Gael biased narratives without challenge. English made a long statement saying that, although he was a Minister of State in the Department of Housing before, the homeowners' evidence today had educated him. He recognised the scheme is not perfect and has to be tweaked as the Department catches up with the realities on the ground. English is disappointed that the banks and Central bank have not been more proactive. English asked if the banks blamed the rules and regulations of the Central Bank for not being proactive? English seemed to imply to Donna McDade that a delay over when she made the decision to demolish her house could've had a negative impact on the "clear range" that would have been put in place by the banks to help her cover the cost of her home's remediation? English asked if builders, that were trying to engage with the defective blocks scheme, were being prevented from doing so because the banks were not appropriately advancing the builders loans? He said that homeonwers had been through serious trauma for "far, far too long. We've been on this road for far too long. We need to bring it to an end." It's worth remembering that Fine Gael and/or Fianna Fáil have been in government, continuously, since 1932. English "understood" from Taoiseach Varadkar's "clarification" today, where Varadkar said that the new scheme is an "enhanced" scheme, that the homeowners would be better off. He felt comfortable making this statement at the same time as saying that he had not yet read the scheme regulations that were published yesterday. English "understood" that there's meant to be an allowance of up to 12& or 13% to deal with the inflation costs of rebuilding.

Joe McHugh - Fine Gael - Donegal

McHugh is not member of the Finance committee. He too was allowed to make a long statement. Again Durkan did NOT invite any homeowner to address McHugh's statement. He said that homeowners were not interested in platitudes but instead wanted action. He went on to say the following. He was "delighted" that the Finance committee "were taking this issue seriously". He said this issue has been going on for 2 decades, but has been struggling for a mechanism to take it seriously. McHugh said the Central Bank ought to get involved with the biggest subvention by any government in the world, but people are getting caught at entry. He said that the his government's scheme precludes people at the point of entry and that the new "enhanced" scheme hasn't changed his concerns about the schemes. McHugh said he proposed down-sizing that was not met with unanimous support because of "different issues". He did not elaborate on the "different issues". McHugh said downsizing would not be needed if the scheme was appropriate. He said (2 decades later) that different stakeholders need to be brought together constructively and work on a cross-departmental basis involving the Housing Department, the Finance Department, the Health Department, etc. Perhaps he should've included the National Building Control Office and the Market Surveillance Office. McHugh said "We as a government... governance structure are failing people." He realised his mistake saying "government" and quickly changed that to "governance structure". McHugh claimed that the new scheme "is working towards making it [sic] better" but he didn't believe that as he added, "My jury is out and whether it will work or not." McHugh said "This has gone on too long. Even the words we use at this stage will fall on deaf ears because the words have been plentiful" [not least from former Taoiseach Martin, current Taoiseach Varadkar and his government colleague, Minister for Housing O'Brien]. McHugh said actions should be taken rather than, "The likes of me coming in here saying you're doing a good job and well done. That's not good enough." McHugh said that for a pensioner, his government's "enhanced" scheme is effectively an 80/20 scheme (which is worse than the purported original 90/10 scheme". Were there any platitudes in what McHugh said?

Damien English

English said that he took issue with the homeowners suggestion that people without the money to make up shortfall deficiencies would be coerced into accepting sub-standard solutions and that the solutions proposed would be informed by the NSAI. English is obviously unaware to the fact that the NSAI's standard, IS.465, completely ignores the real problem in Donegal pyrrhotite which is not even mentioned in IS.465. As a former Minister of State at the Department of Housing, this lack of knowledge is remarkable. A competent engineer would be negligent in their duty if they ignored the issue of pyrrhotite, both in concrete blocks and in aggregate in foundations. [English would be advised to read the 2017 Expert Working Group Report (which mentioned pyrrhotite as a cause of defective blocks but went on to conclude, with a disclaimer to say the group did no testing, that it must be a mica problem in Donegal)] [English should also watch the Defective Concrete Blocks Conference that took place in Letterkenny on 2022-11-15 before making misinformed comments. For a full index to every speaker in the full day conference, he could see https://backstory.ie/dcb_conference.html. I would invite English to at least watch Dr Leeman's talk - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXyP-xbe-20&t=19711s]

Rose Conway-Walsh

Conway-Walsh addressed English's rebuttal. So did the homeowners (without an invite from Durkan).

Sarah Shovlin

Sean McCabe

Damien English

English doubles down on his remarks saying that an engineer would do the right thing regardless of who was paying them. He seems to forget that a chartered surveyor of Ireland would also do that right thing - unless they were restricted by a government authored terms of reference.

Patrick Sharkey

Patrick addresses English's remarks.

Bernard Durkan

Durkan said that he was familiar with similar issues requiring complete house rebuilds 40 years ago where insurances covered costs. He said it should be investigated how the banks, the insurance companies and all the professional agencies have divested themselves of any culpability in current times.

Rose Conway-Walsh

Conway-Walsh emphasised that this is a "time sensitive" issue.

Bernard Durkan

Joe McHugh

McHugh said that "There's a big meeting next door here" (referring to RTÉ's salaries scandal) involving "Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and it's dominated cabinet this last three weeks and the Controller and Auditor General's been pulled in, Grant Thornton getting thousands of Euro and the whole governance apparatus now is focused on on one thing where one thing went wrong." McHugh said, "The only time governance works in this country is when something has gone wrong in Donegal but do we have to wait until the house falls down? Then we'll have the focus on this committee." [I'll add in here, "Or until someone gets killed by a collapsing bison slab supported a 2 Newton block?"] McHugh said, "While we do have a scheme, it's no sorted. And it won't be just in Donegal, Mayo, Clare or Limerick - it'll be in other counties as well." McHugh kept pushing for "this committee to be a possible vehicle for moving the issue forward". But in fact, it is his government that holds the power to move the issue forward! The irony.

Bernard Durkan

Durkan closes the meeting.

Joe McHugh

McHugh asked if he could make a proposal as a non-committee member that a letter should be written directly (as opposed to indirectly) to the banking institutions, to the Central Bank, and to the insurance entities." Go Joe... go!! 👏👏👏

Patrick Sharkey

Bernard Durkan