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Over four people a day declared bankrupt in Northern Ireland

MORE than four people have been declared bankrupt every day in Northern Ireland since April, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has revealed.

Some are large property developers owing more than £100m (€121m) because of failed schemes.

House values have plummeted and some lenders are unwilling to renew loans amid wider financial uncertainty.

John Gordon, senior partner at Napier and Sons legal firm, said: "The biggest reason is the relief of stress, never mind relief of debt.

"It does not matter if they owe £10,000 or £10m, if they are not sleeping at night, they are shouting at their children, they are gambling, bankruptcy may be the way forward."

According to fresh figures from Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Mrs Foster, during the financial year from April to January 10 there have been 1,164 bankruptcies. That compares to 906 in 2007/8. The statistics were revealed following a question from SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood.

Mr Gordon added he regularly met people who saw bankruptcy as an option. He said his firm was representing three to four bankruptcy cases a week.

"We have had a lot of property developers, two from the Republic with debts of over £100m each," he added.

He said people were buying a new house then were unable to get a mortgage because the prices fell and there was no equity in their existing houses. Mr Gordon said there were benefits to going bankrupt.