Contradiction between Justice Minister & Master of High Court Creates Confusion on Repossessions

January 19, 2017

Social Democrats Co-Leader Róisín Shortall used Leaders Questions in the Dáil to draw attention a serious contradiction between the Minister for Justice and the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan.  The issue at the centre of the contradiction is the legality of home repossessions in Irish courts with Mr Honohan claiming that County Registrars in courts across the country are failing in their duty as agents of the EU and granting home repossessions that are possibly legally unsound.

In a PQ reply to Róisín Shortall recently the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald directly contradicted Mr Honohan’s claims creating confusion regarding how Irish courts should operate on the issue of home repossessions. Mister Honahan had pointed out a requirement under EU consumer law for the courts to examine each mortgage contract to see if the terms are unfair irrespective of whether the defendant is present or not whereas Minister Fitzgerald’s reply said the onus is on the defendant to seek protection under EU law. Deputy Shortall asked for an explanation of the contradiction.

During the debate Róisín Shortall TD said:

“Following Mr Honohan’s extremely serious claims that some home repossessions may be legally unsound I undertook research and discovered three separate and compelling sources supporting his argument; a 2013 ECJ ruling stating the onus is on the national court; a recent ruling by Mr Max Barrett in a case which cited the aforementioned ECJ ruling; and the scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill which states the obligation on the courts has been clearly established.”

Deputy Shortall asked if, in view of the evidence supporting Mr Honohan’s comments, the Minister had cleared her contradictory PQ reply past the legal team in the Department of Justice and also if she had discussed the issue with the Attorney General.

Deputy Shortall said:
“The implications of the failure of the courts to adhere to the requirements of EU law are potentially very serious and it would appear repossession orders are being granted without the court taking the initiative, as required under EU law, to assess whether mortgage contracts are fair. This is clearly a denial of people’s rights by the courts. Are repossessions happening without people knowing their rights? Furthermore does this expose the State to legal challenge because of its failure to adhere to the requirements of EU law?”

19th January 2017