Taoiseach rules out anyone in personal insolvency being forced out of job

FF says draft guidelines `anti-women, anti-family and anti-employment’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said  draft guidelines about the conditions for deals with the personal insolvency agency would not make any condition about childcare costs. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said draft guidelines about the conditions for deals with the personal insolvency agency would not make any condition about childcare costs. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 21:05

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has firmly ruled out anyone in personal insolvency being forced to give up their job if the cost of childcare exceeds their income.

He insisted in the Dáil that draft guidelines about the conditions for deals with the personal insolvency agency would not make any condition about childcare costs.

The controversy erupted in the wake of comments by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, who confirmed the agency would have to take childcare costs into account if they were higher than the salary of those in mortgage difficulties.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised the draft guidelines as “anti-women, anti-family and anti-employment”.

Mr Martin called on the Taoiseach to confirm that people who earned less than what their childcare costs would not be forced to give up their jobs and that the guidelines when finally published would ensure these draft guidelines would be excluded and would not apply.

“I will so confirm,” said the Taoiseach.

He added: “I want to make this perfectly clear to every person in the country, man and woman, particularly women, that no guideline, no guideline laid down by the personal insolvency agency, will be mandatory or have a condition that anybody has to give up a job in the country in respect of determining their position.”

The controversial guidelines for personal insolvency situations, published in the Sunday Business Post , had indicated women might be forced to stay home and could be forced to give up their jobs.


‘Incoherence’
Mr Martin accused the Government of “incoherence” in its mortgage-distress strategy. He stressed that “childcare programmes are essential for the development of children. Work is an essential part of our lives, and people should not be forced out of work in the personal insolvency framework.”

He said it highlighted the fundamental flaw that “there is no independent oversight of the banks” and how they proposed to deal with customers and those in mortgage arrears.

He said “people need independent oversight of the banks, which cannot be trusted to deal properly and in a reasonable manner with those in mortgage arrears”.

Mr Kenny retorted: “I want to award you first prize for the hindsight statement of the century. ‘You cannot trust the banks.’ Well done, Deputy Martin.”

Mr Kenny said that if those in arrears were unable to work out a resolution and if they decided to go to the personal insolvency agency, practitioners would sit down with them and “work out the range of what their living expenses should be but it is entirely a matter for the married couple as the case might be, to decide that they wish to do”.

The guidelines would not impose mandatory conditions on people about giving up their jobs. That was a “phantom debate”, Mr Kenny said.

Later Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she welcomed “the Taoiseach’s pro-woman comments” on the issue.

She asked if he would contact the organisation to find out when the guidelines would be announced properly.

The Taoiseach said the guidelines “will be published very shortly by the personal insolvency agency, but I cannot give an exact date”.