Permanent TSB plans to sell loans connected to 14,000 private homes as part of its attempt to reduce the number of non-performing loans on its books, writes Adam Maguire.

The mortgages make up the bulk of its Project Glas portfolio, which includes loans linked to 18,000 properties in Ireland.

PTSB said the loans have a total value of €3.7 billion, €1 billion of which related to investment properties.

The bank said that any firm that buys the loans would either need to be regulated in Ireland, or have a regulated credit service firm act on its behalf.

It would be covered by the Central Bank's Code of Conduct for Mortgage Arrears and would still have the same level of court protection as before.

The bank's assurances come on the back of criticism for the planned loan sale and the potential that it may see loans being taken over by so-called "vulture funds".

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Earlier today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged public concern over the matter.

Speaking in the Dáil, he said PTSB has not yet sold the loans, nor does it have a buyer and added that the bank had not consulted the minister for finance on the matter.

He added that there are weeks and, perhaps months, to put new and necessary protections in place.

"We stand on the side of people and families who are making an honest attempt to pay debts and mortgages", he said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said many thousands are "living in fear and anxiety" over the news that PTSB is to offload up to 20,000 mortgages to "vulture funds".

He said the party’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath would be introducing legislation to bring in regulation for such funds in line with the policy of the Central Bank.

Mr Martin asked the Government to support the legislation, which he said would protect mortgage holders.

In response, Mr Varadkar said he had not had a chance to read Mr McGrath's work, but has asked Minister Paschal Donohoe to meet him to explore how they could work together in relation to the matter.

He also rejected a Sinn Féin suggestion that the Government issue a directive to the banks instructing them not to sell domestic mortgages to "vulture funds".

He said that, under the framework agreed with the European Commission, it would be illegal for the Minister for Finance to issue such a directive.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the Taoiseach to "lift the phone to PTSB and tell them that you and your Government will not permit this sale".

She said the Government should "issue a direction to the banks and NAMA today that under no circumstances should any domestic mortgage be sold to a vulture fund".

Labour leader Brendan Howlin described the planned sale of PTSB loans as a "betrayal" of mortgage holders, particularly those who are paying split mortgages.

He said split mortgage loans are deemed to be non-performing under the European Central Bank's single supervisory mechanism, but he said split mortgages (so homeowners can pay half their loan off, while the other half is warehoused) was one of the key responses to the arrears crisis.

Mr Howlin called on the Government to instruct PTSB to halt the sale of split mortgages until the rules are changed.

"What I'm proposing is not the loosening of regulation", he said. "It is a rebalancing of regulation to be more pro-people as opposed to being so emphatically pro-bank."

Yesterday, the Department of Finance said the planned sale of mortgages does not require the permission of Mr Donohoe before proceeding.

Additional reporting by Ailbhe Conneely and Justin McCarthy