Feature

Ireland: Why it’s time to utter the ‘E-word’

“Eviction” is a particularly nasty word in Ireland.

John Downing

Irish Independent

“Eviction” is a particularly nasty word in Ireland, said John Downing. It’s an unpleasant business anywhere, of course, but in the context of our blighted history, it “has huge additional political scare value.” The word conjures up memories of the Great Famine, when heartless landlords threw half a million Irish farm families, made destitute by the failure of the potato crop, out of their homes. The result is that most Irish today instinctively side with the tenants, no matter how long they’ve failed to pay their mortgage or rent. But we may now have reached the point when we have to allow more evictions. Before the global economic crisis, Ireland had a huge housing bubble, just as the U.K. and the U.S. did, and we have tens of thousands of distressed borrowers—fully one in eight mortgages is more than three months in arrears. Yet our rate of home repossession is a negligible 0.25 percent, one-twelfth of Britain’s rate and one-twentieth of that in the U.S. Failing to deal with nonpayment is having “a deadening influence on the entire economy.” We should wake up to the fact that not everyone is equally deserving of debt forgiveness. In our zeal to stick it to the banks, let’s not enable the “dodgers and cadgers” among us. 

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