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'Shatter is away with fairies on ¤1,200 car rule'

A DEMAND that families seeking a debt write-off must not own a car worth more than €1,200 is "bad, wrong and dangerous," a TD warned today.

A new law proposed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter would stipulate that people seeking to benefit from personal insolvency write-offs would have to get rid of any vehicle worth more than €1,200.

Such a rule would endanger families who have no access to public transport and would have to travel less safely in a sub-standard vehicle, warned Independent Michael Healy-Rae.

"Minister Shatter is so far removed from reality... he's away with the fairies," the TD told the Herald. "People may not live on a bus route and will need to drive their families in dark, wet wintry weather.

"Being forced to drive a car worth less than €1,200 that could be falling asunder could put them more in danger of having an accident.


"It's bad, wrong and potentially dangerous," he said.

Such a law would affect people everywhere, including people living on the outskirts of Dublin and other cities who do not have a bus service, and people living in more remote areas.

Mr Shatter has rejected calls to increase the value of the car indebted families can keep from €1,200 to €3,000.

The minister told the Dail he did not agree with people being able to keep a vehicle if they had "substantially overreached themselves".

"Debts should not be written off where there is an ability to discharge them. That is a reasonable proposition," he said.

But there were protests from Opposition TDs about the need for people in debt to be able to hold on to family-sized cars and even four-wheel drive SUVs.

Mr Shatter had told Deputy Healy-Rae he should tell his local credit union why someone who had been unable to pay back a debt of €6,000 was still driving around in a jeep.

Mr Healy-Rae said today: "When Minister Shatter thinks about SUVs it may be just the big black ones in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. But there are people who need SUVs for work purposes, to pull trailers, or to drive on bad roads in winter."

Under the new law, a debt write-off can be given to a person with debts of under €20,000 who has no income, no assets and who is insolvent with no realistic prospect of being able to repay their debts within the next five years.