Saturday 1 October 2016

It's time for consistent rules on debt deals

Published 08/05/2015 | 02:30

Mr Noonan’s stated intention to re-examine the way debt deals are done is welcome and will be popular with the hundreds of thousands of people struggling with debt
Mr Noonan’s stated intention to re-examine the way debt deals are done is welcome and will be popular with the hundreds of thousands of people struggling with debt

What should we make of Finance Minister Michael Noonan's suggestion in the Dáil yesterday that he may allow the courts to overrule the veto enjoyed by banks on debt deals?

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It certainly makes sense to review the current system; the confusing assortment of attempts to deal with the problem of debt have clearly not worked.

In one sense, this failure is not surprising. It is a very painful business to wipe out debt. There are inevitably winners and losers and the debate can become emotional for those who lose out. Banks will have to charge customers more every time they write off a debt.

Until now, Government policy has tended to side with those who are owed money. Despite conciliatory talk, the banks have always been given the trump cards when it comes to dealing with debtors.

Any decision to downgrade the veto banks enjoy on debt deals would probably even things up, but we don't know because we don't know what guidelines will be given to the institution that will have to determine whether debt deals are just.

At present, there are no consistent guidelines for those in debt. This means that the future happiness and financial position of many families depends on what bank they happen to use.

It is time that this lottery ended and it was replaced with fair and consistent guidelines that can be applied to all cases.

This will present the Government with a political hot potato.

Banks are hard to manage and our political masters have been keen to avoid getting too heavily involved in debt deals until now. That failure meant that the State delegated the decision to individual banks, with very mixed results.

Mr Noonan's stated intention to re-examine the way debt deals are done is welcome and will be popular with the hundreds of thousands of people struggling with debt.

But it will only work if the Government grasps the nettle and tells society as a whole exactly what is expected from those in debt.

HIQA and HSE must put patients first

The running battle between HIQA and the HSE over the investigation into standards at Portlaoise Hospital has become unseemly.

The country's health watchdog has refused to water down its damning report into patient safety in the hospital, where five babies died in similar circumstances.

The HSE's threat of an injunction preventing the publication of the report, claiming some of its findings amounted to "reckless endangerment", has been slapped down by the watchdog.

HIQA has rejected 102 detailed responses from the HSE to its draft report and will today release the full details of its investigation.

Having the body responsible for health service delivery and its watchdog engaging in such squabbling does nothing for the public confidence in the system, especially on foot of such incidents.

It was correct for these deaths to be investigated and the findings must be published in a transparent fashion.

Patients need to be assured their interests are being put first - particularly in these tragic circumstances.

Irish Independent

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