Bishop Christopher Jones’ statement on family home repossessions
11 March 2009
Statement by Bishop Christopher Jones, Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on the Family, on family home repossessions
To counter the fear experienced by people facing the possibility of losing their family home due to the recession, as Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on the Family I am proposing that family homes which are at risk would not be repossessed. This is not a blank cheque proposal. Each case would have to be appropriately assessed by a competent authority. In essence I am suggesting that the terms and conditions of a mortgage agreement could be renegotiated to enable a family to repay at a level appropriate to their current circumstances. This could be regularly reviewed.
Why am I making this proposal? In Ireland the ownership of the family home has always been considered important. Disruption of families and family life should be avoided where at all possible. I am therefore asking the State today, as it is obliged to do under the Constitution, “to protect the family … as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State” (Article 41,1,2).
There is a lot of fear around. We must do all that we can do to remove the unnecessary fear from families that a sudden loss of income may bring. This will often include the trauma of displacement and all the negative consequences that result, especially for children.
This proposal is an acknowledgement that we are living in extraordinary times. While the temporary moratoria offered by some lenders are a welcome development, they do not ultimately remove the fear of repossession from families today. If the Government can intervene to support the banking system, which is essential for the proper functioning of society, similarly I am asking the Government to explore – with lenders – ways in which the family can be protected from repossession in these extraordinary times.
I also appeal to banks to urgently review their lending practices to ensure that businesses receive the necessary support to see them through the current economic crisis.
I would appeal to everyone to have regard for the common good of all when responding to taxation measures and pay adjustments where they are needed to ensure economic stability. I am making these suggestions in addition to the recent publication by the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs In the Wake of the Celtic Tiger: Poverty in Contemporary Ireland
(available on www.catholicbishops.ie
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)