Insolvency Bill is a priority, says Kenny


THE GOVERNMENT is to publish legislation dealing with personal insolvency before the end of next month, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Mr Kenny said Minister for Justice Alan Shatter had indicated he intended to commence the Bill’s second stage before the summer recess. “I would like to see that Bill take priority at the end of this session and at the beginning of the next session,” Mr Kenny added.

He said he had no problem with the Oireachtas sitting right through the summer to put the legislation through. “I would like to see it implemented now, but it has been a very complex, tortuous journey,” he added.

Mr Kenny said he regarded mortgage arrears as the single biggest issue currently facing people.

The Government, said Mr Kenny, would ensure that the Central Bank had oversight on a range of issues, including split mortgages, to deal with genuinely distressed mortgage holders.

There would be a “determined distinction” between those who could not pay and those who would not pay.

He added that this would be set out in the mortgage arrears resolution strategies now being finalised by each licensed mortgage tender.

Mr Kenny said that at the end of December last year, Central Bank data showed that 70,900 mortgage accounts, or 9.2 per cent, were 90 days or more in arrears. This was up from 63,000. “I would like to think there will be greater impetus from the banks in this regard,” he added.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that, despite many promises and commitments to the contrary, the Government had failed abysmally to deal with the mortgage crisis.

While it had impacted severely on the individuals and families concerned, it had further impacted on the wider economy in terms of jobs. It was also having a very debilitating impact on economic activity and any sense of dynamic whatsoever, Mr Martin added.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Fine Gael had promised a lot when it was in opposition and in its programme for government.

The common thread among families, she said, was the gnawing fear they would lose their homes.

Ms McDonald asked if the Taoiseach was allowing the banks and the troika to set the agenda on the matter.

“When will the Taoiseach be decisive in putting distressed mortgage holders before banks or his friends in the troika?’’ she added.

Independent TD Shane Ross said he hoped the Taoiseach had not missed the warning that came from the big guns in the Central Bank, namely governor Patrick Honohan and deputy governor Matthew Elderfield. “The deputy governor said he was not comfortable with the behaviour of the bankers,” Mr Ross added.

Mr Ross said the mortgage arrears problem was scary because Ireland was going down a similar road to 2008. The banks were notably not writing down the loans adequately in their balance sheets.

There was a warning from Deutsche Bank that the banks would land us in a second bailout sooner than the end of 2013.

Mr Kenny said he welcomed the governor’s comments and how seriously he was taking his position.

“The decision by Danske Bank, which is a Danish bank, was in respect of a write-down of National Irish Bank, which is clearly the decision of the bank,” he added.