CHANGES to outdated debt laws will not be made until next year despite the Government admitting the “urgency” of dealing with the plight facing distressed mortgage holders.
There are no plans to fast-track the Personal Insolvency Bill scheduled to be published in the first quarter of 2012, despite claims from the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, that debt forgiveness measures are needed without delay.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said the issue is “top of the agenda” for the Government but that “ultimately, the relationship between banks and the individual borrower is something they have to work through”.
He said it was “extremely difficult” to handle because “you can’t be writing off one person’s debt and expect another person to pay their debt”.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dáil the Government considers the issue of distressed mortgage holders “a matter of great urgency”.
Following remarks from Mr Honohan that people were being driven to suicide by banks and creditors pursuing debts, Mr Gilmore said: “We are very concerned about the situation that mortgage holders find themselves in and the difficulties that, on some occasions, they find themselves in when these matters are brought before the courts.”
Mr Honohan said Ireland “can’t wait” 18 months for new laws.
Mr Gilmore said: “A personal insolvency Bill is planned for 2012 and is in the course of being developed in the Department of Justice and Equality to provide for a new framework for settlement and enforcement of debt, and for personal insolvency.”
He said “some interim measures are planned for the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill that is in the course of being drafted with a view to publication as soon as possible this year”.
Produced by the previous government, the bill allows for the easing up of imprisonment for non-payment of debt. He denied claims by Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald that the Government was “long-fingering” the issue.
She said: “You cannot claim to attach an urgency to a matter like this and continuously long-finger it. That is your record on this matter.”
Socialist TD Joe Higgins said: “It’s bad enough having certain banks robbing us but killing us as well is far worse.”
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