A LEADING financial expert has apologised after he appeared to suggest hospital consultants and solicitors are entitled to live in bigger houses because of their “professional status” – even if they are insolvent.
Jim Stafford, one of the country’s first ever Personal Insolvency Practitioners, was speaking on how a major part of the new PIP legislation is to try to keep the family in the family home if possible.
And he said the level of professional status would play a large part in how this argument would play out.
“I would be making a very strong case, for example, that a solicitor should have a bigger house that accords with his professional status in society so that his neighbours and clients can see that, yes, this person is a good solicitor who’s is living in a good house,” he said on RTE Radio.
He was responding to a query from Mary Wilson on how family homes would be impacted if a client were to agree to enter an insolvency arrangement.
In January 2012, the Government approved the Personal Insolvency Bill in a reform of the existing bankruptcy process.
Under new arrangements, eligible applicants are to be provided with better alternatives to declaring bankruptcy. These include Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIA); Debt Settlement Arrangements (DSA), and Debt Relief Notices (DRN), allowing for the write down or restructuring of both secured and unsecured debt owed.
“In practice, the PIP will also have to assess the type of house that might be needed for a professional person such as a solicitor, accountant or a hospital consultant as opposed to a house that’s needed by someone who is in the PAYE sector for example,” he said.
Mary Wilson reacted with some surprise to the suggestion: “Well, he may need an office, but he hardly needs a palatial house in South County Dublin,” she said.
But Mr Stafford stuck with his argument.
“Believe me, the clients who we have on our books are insisting they continue to stay in their palatial houses, now, it’s possible that some of them might have to down trade, but that all goes into the pot and at the end of the day the banks, the creditors have to agree to that process,” responds Mr Stafford.
However this evening Mr Stafford issued an apology on his website.
"I would like to acknowledge and sincerely apologise for the hurt and distress that my comments to RTE have undoubtedly caused.
"Simply it was not my intention to offend.
"In particular, it was not my intention to create a distinction between so called professional classes and PAYE workers nor appear to further the causes of a particular debtor type.
"I believe that every person has a passionate concern to retain their family home.
"I fully appreciate the distress that financial difficulties cause any one, no matter what their financial circumstances may be.
"I fully and unreservedly apologise for my comments.