Why is there no second chance for borrowers?

It must be galling in the extreme for those deeply affected by the building standards of bankrupt developer Tom McFeely to read over the weekend that he was out and about again, this time in the UK, trying to get sufficient funds to get back into the property development business. McFeely and his business partner were the developers of the infamous Priory Hall development in Dublin.

This development was built without any apparent regard for building safety and fire standards and when this was discovered the local authorities required that all residents vacate their flats.

Those ‘evacuated’ had to find alternative accommodation and were rent supported by the local authority. However, the mortgages borrowed to buy their flats still had to be repaid.

While all of this happened over four years ago nobody, McFeely or those in Government, or local authority, who were supposed to protect the interests of the State and its citizens, has paid any meaningful price for this failure to comply with the most basic building regulations. In fact, the local authority has apparently gone to court to cease financially supporting residents.

It would appear, however, that in recent weeks,following the suicide of one of the residents, the banks appear to be looking at the loans with a more ‘generous’ eye.

Most of us were only indirectly affected by the Priory Hall debacle, a debacle which represents the repeated failure of our Government and regulatory authorities to protect the public from those who think such regulations and laws are just inconveniences and obstacles to them making money.

However, all of us are affected by the impact of their actions and the actions of others who took the short cut to making money and now demand that taxpayers pay for their mistakes.

If that was all it was it would be bad enough. The taxpayer is lumbered with austerity and millions are impoverished for generations as a result of the actions of the few. Yet those same individuals are ‘free’ to go back out and do the same again after one year if they can prove UK residency and declare bankruptcy there.

Irish bankruptcy now takes a little longer but the effect is the same. The fact that the bankrupt individual has left sometimes thousands of people in deep financial trouble because of their actions does not seem to enter the equation. Priory Hall is an example, but there are many others. This is much more than a simple slap in the face; it’s a knife in the back.

Some of you will read this and say it is unfair, that people should be given a second chance. Indeed in the US they say that you will never be successful unless you fail more than once. However, surely the impact on others of your failure should be considered as part of the assessment for eligibility for bankruptcy. It currently does not appear to be.

The fact is that one can take stupid, rash or downright wrong decisions, lose a mint of the banks’ and perhaps other investors’ money and then declare bankruptcy. One year later you are now free to get back up and live your life all over again. But those who were impacted by your failures through no fault of their own, other than stupidly dealing with you, are still where you put them and may well be forever.

Granted there should be some reasonable way back from failure. If there wasn’t nobody would take a chance to try something new.

The problem is with those who, by their deliberate actions, ruin the lives of others.

Perhaps, like in criminal cases, we need victim impact statements to be included as part of the deliberation.

Otherwise it’s just more proof that government rolls over for certain groups, allowing them to seriously negatively impact on the lives of others whilst nailing the ordinary citizen to the cross over even the most minor infraction.

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