14.03.

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IRISH EXAMINER
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Mortgage arrears measures ‘throw borrowers to the wolves’
by John Walsh
and Mary Regan
New measures to tackle the
mortgage arrears crisis offer
no hope to borrowers and
effectively “throw them to
the wolves”, campaigners
have claimed.
Under the plan an-
nounced by the Govern-
ment and the Central Bank,
there will be a sharp rise in
repossessions, with banks
forced to write down debt.
The six main lenders —
AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster
Bank, PTSB, ACC, and
KBC — have been given
specific targets to have
solutions in place with 20%
of distressed customers by
the end of June, 50% by
the end of the year, and the
balance over 2014.
The Central Bank will
audit the banks throughout
next year to ensure they
are meeting their targets.
The current limit on a
bank of contacting home-
owners in arrears no more
than three times in a month
has been scrapped.
The revised Code of
Conduct on Mortgage
Arrears also gives the banks
a range of powers to
penalise customers who
refuse to co-operate — up
to repossession.
Customers will have to
provide a full breakdown of
the reasons why they cannot
meet their mortgage
payments. If a bank refuses
to enter into a restructuring
arrangement, then it must
write to the customer with a
full breakdown explaining
its reasons.
There are currently:
■ 94,488 residential mort-
gages and 27,018 buy-to-let
mortgages in arrears of more
than 90 days;
■ 23,523 residential mort-
gages, with a collective
value of €4.8bn, more than
720 days in arrears;
■ 51,352 residential mort-
gages in arrears of more than
360 days.
Financial regulator
Matthew Elderfield said he
expects repossessions to
“rise significantly”, which is
at odds with what the Gov-
ernment has been saying.
He said “some form of
debt relief makes sense but it
is up to each bank”.
Finance Minister Michael
Noonan said the Govern-
ment intends to keep the
rate of repossessions “very
small” and they will only
happen as “a last option”.
Mr Noonan said he does
not expect the banks will
need to raise extra capital.
David Hall of the Irish
Mortgage Holders Organi-
sation said the plan offers no
hope for borrowers in
distress and will spread fear.
He said the State’s
response has been woefully
inadequate and has erred on
the side of the banks.
“The plan delivers no
improvement in transparen-
cy of solutions to be offered
to borrowers by the lenders,
and provides no protection
for borrowers against poten-
tial abuses by the lenders
of their powers… it throws
borrowers to the wolves.”
He also raised concerns
about the removal of the
current cap on the number
of times a bank is allowed to
contact or call or visit a
borrower and warned
lenders have been incen-
tivised “to maximise the rate
of extraction of savings and
income from the already
distressed borrowers”.
NEWS: 8
A New World pope
Newly elected Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, appears on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals. Picture: Reuters
by Stephen Rogers, Nicole
Winfield, and Alex Diaz
The first South American, the first
non-European in more than a
millennium and the first Jesuit, a
new era in the Catholic Church was
ushered in as Argentinian cardinal
Jorge Bergoglio was last night elected
Pope Francis I.
Tens of thousands of people who
braved cold rain to watch the
smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel
jumped for joy when white smoke
poured out, many shouting “Habemus
Papam!” or “We have a pope!” — as
the bells of St Peter’s Basilica and
churches across Rome pealed.
The Argentinian’s choice was a
surprise to the hundreds of thousands
of people who had packed into St
Peter’s Square as well as many of
the 1.2bn Catholics around the
world.
The brevity of the conclave — the
cardinals chose him on the fifth ballot
on the gathering’s second day — led
many to believe that the new pontiff
would be an Italian, most likely
Angelo Scola from Milan.
His predecessor, now Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI, was elected on the
fourth ballot in 2005 — but he was
the clear frontrunner going into the
vote. Pope John Paul II was elected on
the eighth ballot in 1978 to become
the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
The Argentinian was not considered
a serious contender due to his age.
His health has also been questioned
by some, having had a lung removed
due to infection as a teenager.
However, Cardinal Bergoglio, the
son of an Italian immigrant and
railway worker, had reportedly
finished second in the 2005 conclave
that produced Benedict — who last
month became the first pope to
resign in 600 years.
When he appeared on the central
balcony of St Peter’s Basilica just over
an hour after white smoke poured
from a chimney on the roof of the
Sistine Chapel, one of the first things
he asked of the thousands before him
and millions more around the globe
was to pray for him.
“Brothers and sisters, good
evening,” he said to wild cheers in his
first public remarks as pontiff. “You
know that the work of the conclave is
to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as
if my brother cardinals went to find
him from the end of the Earth.
“I would like to thank you for your
welcome, the community of Rome, its
brotherhood, I thank you. Above all, I
would like to pray for Pope Benedict.”
He finished his address by saying:
“Good night, and have a good rest.”
That humbleness appears to be
typical of the 76-year-old archbishop
of Buenos Aires.
In fact, even the choice of the name
Francis reflects that as it associates
him with the humble 13th-century
Italian preacher who lived a life of
poverty.
In his home city, he was renowned
for his refusal to surround himself in
luxury during his tenure as
archbishop.
He often rode the bus to work,
cooked his own meals, and regularly
visited the slums that surround
Argentina’s capital.
He has spent nearly his entire career
at home in Argentina, overseeing
churches and priests, where he has
focused on social outreach.
However, though considered a
moderate compared to his fellow
cardinals, Pope Francis I has a
reputation as an austere Jesuit
intellectual.
He takes a conservative line on
issues such as abortion and gay
marriage, though he believes in
contraception to prevent the spread
of disease and is open to dialogue
with other faiths.
Argentina’s media was quick to
point out the new pope had a history
of confrontation with President
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and
her predecessor as president and
husband, the late Nestor Kirchner.
The main point of friction has been
same-sex marriage, which Ms
Fernández’s government legalised in
Jul 2010. Commenting on the matter
at the time, Cardinal Bergoglio said:
“Let us not be naïve — this is not
simply a political struggle, it is the
aspiration to destroy God’s plan.”
His legacy as cardinal includes his
efforts to repair the reputation of a
church that lost many followers by
failing to openly challenge Argentina’s
murderous 1976-83 dictatorship.
Many Argentines remain angry over
the Church’s acknowledged failure to
openly confront a regime that was
kidnapping and killing thousands of
people as it sought to eliminate
“subversive elements” in society.
Nonetheless his spirituality, frugal
lifestyle, and his robust defence of the
poor have made him a popular figure
in Buenos Aires.
When the news broke in his home
city last night, cars honked their horns
and television announcers screamed
with elation and surprise, and
Catholics began flooding toward the
city’s cathedrals and churches.
The news was greeted with delight
across South America where, despite
the level of support for the Catholic
Church, there has never been a pope
selected.
Vatican spokesman the Rev
Federico Lombardi, also a Jesuit, said
he was particularly stunned by the
election given that Jesuits typically
shun positions of authority in the
Church, instead offering their work
in service to those in power.
But Lombardi said that in accepting
the election, Francis must have felt it
“a strong call to service”, an antidote
to all those who speculated that the
papacy was about a search for power.
The new pope will be officially
installed as the leader of the Roman
Catholic Church on Mar 19 in a
ceremony which will be attended by
heads of state and governments.
Francis marks series of firsts for Church
Humble man faces many challenges
■ Known until yesterday as
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the
76-year-old is regarded as a
humble man who denied
himself the luxuries previous
Buenos Aires cardinals
enjoyed. NEWS: 4&5
■ Latin Americans reacted
with joy, bursting into tears
and cheers yesterday at
news that an Argentinian
cardinal has become the first
pope from the hemisphere.
NEWS: 4
■ The challenges facing the
new pope range from a
growing shortage of priests
to the worldwide difficulties
caused by the clerical
paedophile scandals and
the cover-ups that have
undermined the moral
authority of the Church
hierarchy, along with
reported corruption within
the Vatican banking system,
and the intense rivalries
within the Curia.
EDITORIAL: 12
■ Jorge Mario Bergoglio
will face a more complex
challenge than John Paul II
confronted during the Cold
War’s final decade.
ANALYSIS: 13
Massgoers react at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos
Aires after Jorge Bergoglio was chosen as pope. Picture: AP

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