The talk here is of debt forgiveness. The number of people more than three months in arrears with their mortgages is 55000. Dublin house prices are down 49% from their peak in February 2007. Overall property prices fell by 12.5% during last. Even those prices are notional since most houses are simply unsaleable.
A lady write to the Irish Times to say that she has a mortgage of €900000 on a property now worth €400000. A man writes to say that he cannot feed his family. We went to a huge hardware store outside Letterkenny this morning and were the only customers. Not much different in Dunnes Stores and M&S – in the wine section I noted a single line of bottles on the outside edge of the shelf.
This is economic recession on a level which we have not experienced in Scotland. Government can see that these levels of personal debt will never be repaid and that this is another issue which has to be resolved if there is to be recovery. And somewhere in the background is a dogged belief that this is not Greece – the trade balance is healthy – Irish young people are highly-educated, articulate and adaptable. I have a feeling that a more devastating clear-out of the political class even than we have yet seen is needed. But it will come.
Personal debt is a personal responsibility. But banks were pushing money at people. The regulators seemed to be asleep at the wheel. Working out the balance between personal and community responsibility is a matter for fine political and ethical judgement …