A second loan sold to a vulture fund. A second property ex-minister Damien English managed to keep

A second non-performing mortgage of ex-junior minister Damien English was sold to a vulture fund. As was the case with English’s first distressed mortgage, the ex-junior minister has managed to maintain ownership of the property.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has refused to say if he knew English was in financial difficulties when he appointed him minister of state for housing in 2017.

The Meath West TD took out the second mortgage with Permanent TSB – which would later become state-owned. Around a year before the institution sold a tranche of ‘bad loans’ to a US vulture fund, English used speaking time in the Seanad to raise the question of to whom these loans would be sold, asking, “Who or what is going to buy up these loan books?”

He did not declare his interest in the matter when doing so. English also spoke in the Dáil about mortgage arrears on multiple occasions without declaring his “material interest” in the matter – which he was required to do under ethics rules.

English resigned as minister of state for enterprise yesterday after a Ditch report that he lied about his home ownership on a planning application.

A state-owned bank. A minister’s loan with that bank sold to a vulture fund. That minister raising the matter

On Monday The Ditch reported that a mortgage on Damien English’s undeclared second property was sold to a vulture fund after he defaulted on his mortgage repayments. It can now be revealed that the non-performing mortgage on English’s current primary residence was also sold to a vulture fund.

Damien English obtained a mortgage from Permanent TSB for his Cookstown, county Meath home in 2010, according to Land Registry records. He received planning permission for this property in 2008 after he falsely declared to Meath County Council that he didn’t already own a house.

The ex-junior minister already had a mortgage with Ulster Bank on his other home in Castlemartin, county Meath, six kilometres from his second home. English defaulted on his first mortgage and it was eventually sold to vulture fund Promontoria in 2019. English managed to hold on to the bungalow and remains its legal owner.

This wasn’t English’s only mortgage transferred to a vulture fund – or the only one he still owns.

In 2019 the Meath West TD’s Permanent TSB mortgage was transferred to Lone Star Funds-owned Start Mortgages DAC as part of the sale of 10,700 non-performing loans known as Project Glas.

Around a year before the sale, then junior housing minister English made specific reference to the state-owned Permanent TSB’s proposed sale of the Project Glas loan book when speaking in the Seanad.

“The question of Permanent TSB and vulture funds was raised by several people. No proposals have come forward yet in respect of who is buying that loan book. Who or what is going to buy up these loan books? Loan books are sold on a regular basis by different banks throughout the world. What is important is that people are protected in their homes regardless of who owns their loans,” said English, speaking in the Seanad in February 2018.

He failed to declare his personal interest in the matter.

The minister for implementing mortgage arrears reforms

In 2017 then housing minister Simon Coveney made English responsible for implementing a number of mortgage arrears reforms. This was despite English himself being the holder of two mortgages in arrears. English served as minister of state for housing from June 2017 until June 2020.

Ministers of state who have a “material interest” in a matter being discussed in the Oireachtas must “make a declaration of the fact in the proceedings before or during the course of the speech”, according to SIPO’s Code of Conduct for Office Holders.

English has managed to retain ownership of the two homes despite both mortgages being sold to vulture funds.

The Meath man served as a minister of state in various departments since 2014 on a yearly salary of around €140,000.

Promontoria and Start Mortgages have repossessed and sold thousands of Irish homes over the past five years.

Leo Varadkar declined to comment when asked if he was aware of English’s financial difficulties when he appointed him junior housing minister in 2017.

English declined to comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors