Saturday 14 December 2019

Editorial: Change in insolvency legislation long overdue

Change in insolvency legislation long overdue
Change in insolvency legislation long overdue

IT is ironic that NAMA is to offer financial incentives to prevent developers seeking bankruptcy in the UK when that option of last resort is the only meaningful option for many debtors.

Developers suffering "debtor fatigue" are seeking bankruptcy across the water – where bankrupts can be discharged in a year – rather than working through cumbersome recovery plans. Most ordinary debtors, many nursing mortgage arrears and other consumer debts, cannot afford to relocate to Belfast or London for a year to secure a fresh start. They were promised a new dawn with the introduction, two years ago, of a new insolvency regime. But the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, still heavily weighted in favour of banks – who enjoy an all-powerful veto over proposed debt deals – has not lived up to its promise.

This paper, for more than a year, has regularly called for changes to the act in order to prevent the Insolvency Service of Ireland being strangled at birth. The Government has now woke up to the reality that the 2012 Act is not fit for purpose.

In a document published by accident on the website of the Department of Justice, it acknowledges flaws that could lead to a litany of successful legal actions by debtors in the courts.

The State has accepted the need to introduce even more changes to its flagship law. The changes are necessary and welcome. But as a measure to protect consumers from over-reach by the banks, the legislation has proved to be disappointing.

It also leads to fears that there is a two tier debt resolution regime for former high net worth and ordinary borrowers.

New laws will help tackle terror threat

CITIZENS of this island have had to live with the threat of terrorism for many decades. South of the border the authorities have been challenged to give a meaningful response to the problems in the North and voice the concerns of the minority nationalist community. But the threat from terrorists has also at various times threatened the stability and continuity of democratically-elected government in the southern jurisdiction.

Members of the Defence Forces, gardai and prison officers have been called upon to lead the fight against these threats and some have paid the ultimate sacrifice in upholding their duty.

It is with these grim facts in mind that today we welcome moves by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to strengthen the law to deal with terrorist threats. Three new offences will be created: the public provocation of terrorism, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism.

These are the most significant changes to Ireland's anti-terrorism laws since those which followed the Omagh bombing outrage in August 1998 that murdered 29 people and injured 220. It was an attempt, happily unsuccessful, by so-called dissident republicans to destroy the fledgling Northern peace process.

The move to strengthen anti-terrorism laws – with a potential 10-year prison term for people convicted of these three crimes – is undoubtedly an effort to take account of changes in terrorism. In the intervening 16 years there have been a plethora of technological advances which help the terrorist to effectively ply his or her trade in death and destruction.

Our law enforcers must have the fullest range of necessary powers at their disposal to face down a continuing threat from a small minority who refuse to recognise the democratic will of the vast majority all across this island. But as we welcome the planned new laws, let us also sound a small note of caution.

This republic has been in a de jure state of emergency for a long time. Our statute books are stuffed with many seldom-used anti-terrorist laws. We must continue to subject all these measures to rigorous reappraisal and routinely question their efficacy. Any appraisal would, of course, place state security and the safety of our security personnel as the number one priority.


Irish Independent

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