Joan Burton: 'urgent action'

A total of 242 Irish homes and properties have been repossessed this year, according to new figures released by the Courts Service.

Overall, there were 598 applications made to the High Court to have homes repossessed.

Dublin was the worst hit, with 56 homes and properties reclaimed by banks and mortgage providers as families struggled to keep up with repayments.

And these figures are not likely to be the full picture, according to a spokesman for the Courts Service. "The data collected by the Courts Service in respect of possession orders does not reflect the full picture on a person losing their property as most mortgage contracts permit the lender to foreclose for non-payment of instalment without a court order."

Wexford Councillor Robbie Ireton said "at least one family" a day is visiting his clinic over home repossession threats.

"The effect of this is not to be underestimated. Families and individuals are being put under severe pressure as the true bite of the recession kicks in. Marriages are coming under pressure, and it is very dismal out there on the ground.

"There are some days I could see at least 10 desperate individuals looking for advice, but I always see at least one. Sometimes I am forced to tell people that it is best to just cut your losses and hand the keys over, and that is no easy thing to do.

"The pressure being put on Irish people is reaching a new high, and this has coincided with a rise in suicides and mental-health issues which is a major issue here in Wexford. I am very concerned about this situation and intend to highlight it with the council again over the coming weeks," said Ireton.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan recently rejected calls to put a two-year moratorium on property repossessions.

But Labour Finance spokeswoman Joan Burton has called for the moratorium, saying the level of repossessions in Ireland is on the increase.

"We need urgent action now to help the victims of the recession struggling with their mortgages as the government is doing nothing for the tens of thousands of families facing repossession," she said.

The figures are likely to raise further concerns over mass mortgage defaults and continuing pressure on home owners.