Law stopping bankrupts contesting elections to be scrapped

Legislation will apply to forthcoming European elections

 Jillian Godsil: had begun legal challenge against law barring declared bankrupts from contesting national and European elections. Photograph: Collins

Jillian Godsil: had begun legal challenge against law barring declared bankrupts from contesting national and European elections. Photograph: Collins

 

The law preventing bankrupts from contesting Dáil and European elections is to be scrapped. The

Cabinet decided yesterday to abolish the provision that prevents a declared bankrupt from contesting national and European but not local elections.

A woman bankrupt who wants to be a candidate in the European elections is currently challenging the validity of the law in the High Court.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan brought a proposal to Cabinet yesterday to abolish the provision which has been a feature of Irish law since the foundation of the State.

The Cabinet agreed to bring forward legislation immediately so that it will apply to the forthcoming European elections. The first nominations closing date will be Holy Thursday, April 17th, and prospective candidates should have good notice of the new rules.


Short Bill
Mr Hogan is hoping that his short Bill will be published quickly and passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas before Easter to enable the new provisions to come into effect for the elections which are scheduled for May 23rd.

The bankruptcy disqualification has been in place in Ireland since the foundation of the State and applied before that for local and national elections held under the Westminster administration.

This disqualification was removed for local elections in 1974 but it remained for Dáil elections and was applied to European elections when they began in 1979.

Mr Hogan said that his department had made inquiries about the law in other EU member states and confirmed that it is not a disqualification in at least 16 of those.


Anomalies
He also said that anomalies existed under the current legislation whereby an Irish citizen adjudicated bankrupt in another jurisdiction was eligible for election to the Dáil, or to the European Parliament to represent Ireland, but an Irish citizen adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland was not eligible for election to either. Similarly, where a TD or an MEP was adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland they ceased to be a member but if a member was adjudicated bankrupt in another jurisdiction, a vacancy in the Dáil or the European Parliament would not arise.

In the history of the Dáil just one elected TD, the union leader James Larkin, has lost his seat as a result of the rule. He was elected in September 1927 but unable to take his seat as he was an undeclared bankrupt.

In recent times there has been speculation that potential bankruptcy in the wake of the property crash could threaten the seats of a number of TDs but to date no sitting deputy has been declared bankrupt.

Minister for Health James Reilly, Minister of State for Small Business John Perry and Independent TD Mick Wallace are among TDs who have had financial difficulties, but all have escaped bankruptcy.

The High Court case challenging the law has been taken by Jillian Godsil of Tinahely, Co Wicklow, whose house was repossessed last year. She intends to run in the local elections and the European elections.