Access to justice in Ireland is underpinned by constitutional, national, European and
international law. It is particularly important for those who face losing their homes. There are now in Ireland some 30,000 mortgages in arrears over two years. Central Bank of Ireland research shows a high representation of single parent (women) borrowers with three or more children, with most reliant on state supports. There has been a significant
increase in possession cases before Irish courts. Many debtors cannot afford legal
representation – some try to represent themselves – and County Registrars and Circuit Court Judges seek to achieve a resolution, where possible.
This study examined 99 Court Lists of almost 2,400 mortgage possession cases in December 2017 and January 2018. In some 70% of cases, home loan debtors had no recorded legal representation. For ECB directly supervised lenders, the figure was 64% without any recorded legal representation. A small number (7%) represented themselves.
There is a significant EU dimension as ECB directly supervised entities in Ireland are seeking possession of these homes. EU institutions such as the ECB must operate and respect EU law, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the State must ensure that EU law is
systematically applied in Ireland. There is no evidence that the ECB is respecting the Charter or other EU law protections for debtors in this micro-prudential supervision role in Ireland.
There are also important human rights issues, as well as issues of access to justice. These include non-compliance with Irish legislation on the human rights public sector duty by the Central Bank of Ireland, the Courts Service and other public bodies, including state-owned financial institutions. This raises questions as to whether there is widespread and systematic
non-application of EU law in Ireland, particularly by the ECB.