Landlords with 21 homes will not be protected from eviction in the same way as the average debt-hit householder, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has warned.
Property investor Brendan Kelly and his wife Asta were dismissed by the minister as they vowed to sleep in a tent outside their repossessed 2.2 million euro mansion in Killiney, Dublin, with Mr Noonan saying: "We must distinguish between people who can't pay and people who won't pay."
Mr Kelly, 71, and wife Asta, 63, were forced out of their five-bedroom detached home in a gated community over arrears now held with the state-controlled Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).
The couple, who repeatedly refused to discuss their huge investments and extensive mortgages they secured while in their 60s, likened their removal to a 19th-century eviction.
Mr Noonan said systems in place to keep struggling householders in their homes have been well thought through. He warned that the Government was not in the business of rescuing professional landlords who refuse to pay debt.
"I think it's been well designed. The Government has pledged, insofar as possible, to keep people in their own homes," the minister said. "We have no pledge to keep people in 21 different homes and we must distinguish between people who can't pay and people who won't pay. For those who can't pay, we have a series of policies so that the banks will deal with (debtors) on a case-by-case basis to relieve the burden."
The Kellys are staging a sit-in outside the now-empty property in St Matthias Wood to protest against how their eviction was handled. They claim to have spent the last two nights sleeping in a tent at the roadside.
Property records show both he and his wife had a portfolio of 21 properties in some of the most affluent areas of south Dublin, such as Ballsbridge, Donnybrook and Beggars Bush. Mr Kelly, a qualified accountant, and his wife bought the Killiney house in 2002. They took out a mortgage with the failed Irish Nationwide building society which is now part of the IBRC. He said he believed they may have gone into arrears in 2009 but could not be certain. Nor could he confirm exactly when the bank served the repossession order. He told the Press Association it may have been in the middle of 2010.
Meanwhile, Occupy Dame Street members have travelled to the Killiney mansion to pledge support for the Kellys. Campaigner John Rogers said the couple was removed from the property with brutal force, which was unacceptable.
"It doesn't matter how many properties they have in their portfolio," said Mr Rogers. "They are in negative equity like much of the country and the bank should have given them a chance to make smaller payments or come to some kind of arrangement. But to drag an old man from his home kicking and screaming is not right. If anyone in this country doesn't see that then they mustn't have a heart."