European Central Bank undermining human rights in Ireland - new report

Mar 12 2018 Posted: 08:00 GMT

ECB directed home possessions in Ireland is undermining human rights. ECB places home loan debtors in vulnerable situations at risk of home loss with no legal representation. ECB directions show no respect for Irish courts.

** The report  is available to download here: Access to Justice and the ECB**

A detailed study of 100 Courts Lists and 2,400 cases of home possession in December 2017 and January 2018 indicates that ECB direct supervision of mortgage institutions in Ireland shows no respect for the human rights law or access to justice.

Access to Justice and the ECB, a research report by the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, shows that some 70% of home loan debtors have no recorded legal representation in mortgage possession cases.  Two thirds of those defending the actions of ECB directly supervised lenders had no legal reprersentation.  A small number of people (7%) are forced to represent themselves.  In Ireland, ECB directly supervised banks include Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank, Ulster Bank and PTSB. The report draws on Central Bank research showing that 40% of bank and 70% of ‘vulture fund’ cases result in home possession orders.

ECB Report
“Access to justice for all is core to the rule of law,” Dr. Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy said. “However, today in Ireland, we have a situation whereby home loan debtors are pitched against the legal resources ECB directed corporations, often in what appears like a David versus Goliath encounter. This is creating unprecedented pressure on Irish courts, which have relatively small numbers of judges.

“Irish Circuit Court Judges and Registrars make valiant efforts to explain procedures, processes and even the meaning of legal terms to people who are at best anxious and nervous, and at worst suffering from serious illness, disorientated and emotionally vulnerable and fragile,” he continued. “This research raises important systemic questions in relation to access to justice in Irish courts in mortgage repossession or home loss cases. It also raises important questions as to whether the ECB, as an EU institution, directly supervising the entities instigating these legal actions, is actively and knowingly undermining EU law, especially consumer and human rights law. Access to justice for home loan debtors has never been more important, but sadly, also never so inequitable, unfair and unattainable.”

Since 2014, the main euro-area banks have been supervised directly by the ECB in Frankfurt in relation to macro- and micro-prudential rules and capital requirements under the Single Supervisory Mechanism. European Banking Authority and ECB guidance on dealing with mortgage arrears suggest a range of options, but this is largely ignored by ECB supervised entities in Ireland.

Dr Kenna pointed to the Irish tracker mortgage scandal, where over 33,000 mortgage consumers were overcharged and which resulted in at least 100 households losing their homes. This has already highlighted the systemic failure of the ECB and the Central Bank of Ireland to effectively promote EU consumer rights, he said.

“The Irish tracker mortgage scandal reports reveals that many people experienced wrongful, court approved loss of home,” “This report demonstrates that with the absence of legal representation in two-thirds of ECB directed mortgage arrears cases, it is likley that similar wrongful evictions will take place, with unknown consequences for the households involved.”

There are over 30,000 mortgages in arrears for over two years in Ireland, putting these households at far greater risk of losing their homes. Central Bank research shows that those in long-term mortgage arrears are more likely to be single parent (women) borrowers with three or more children; have lower net incomes and have higher mortgage debt service ratios.

EU law obliges courts to assess the fairness of mortgage terms under the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive.  They should also assess the human rights impact of an eviction on all occupants in the home – including children, older people and people with disabilities – under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. ECB directly supervised lenders are piling possession cases into Irish courts,  and are not providing sufficient information for Irish courts to carry out “own motion assessments” for unfair contract terms in mortgages, the report finds. He said that there is a systemic non-application of relevant EU consumer and human rights law, in these proceedings, largely directed by ECB supervised entities.

Furthermore, as Irish public bodies, the Central Bank of Ireland, the nationalised banks, and other State agencies involved in the home loss/ possession cases have a “public sector duty” to protect human rights under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.

Dr Padraic Kenna presenting the Report 'Access to Justice and the ECB' at NUI Galway

Dr Padraic Kenna presenting the Report Access to Justice and the ECB at NUI Galway

For more information contact: Dr Padraic Kenna at

Read the full press release and case studies here: Access to Justice Press Release

The report has been covered in The Irish Times, Irish Examiner and Irish Legal News.

Dr Padraic Kenna


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