Varadkar says he and Taoiseach agree on insolvency rules

Minister ’ happy to clarify’ after apparent conflict over childcare costs

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport	 Leo Varadkar, at the launch of the National Ports Policy, at Government Buildings on Tuesday. Photograph: Eric Luke / The irish Times

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar, at the launch of the National Ports Policy, at Government Buildings on Tuesday. Photograph: Eric Luke / The irish Times

Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 14:49

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said he is sorry for any "contradictory" remarks which may have given the impression that he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were at odds on proposed insolvency rules relating to working mothers.

On Tuesday Mr Varadkar said women in families with excessive debt had a "legitimate" expectation of retaining their careers. But he added that should childcare bills be so excessive they were deemed to have prevented mortgage repayments being made, "well then that's something that needs to be taken into account".

On Wednesday Mr Kenny told the Dáil he wanted to make it perfectly clear "particularly to women" that nobody would be forced to give up their career due to a debt insolvency agreement. "I want to make this perfectly clear to every person in the country, man and woman, particularly women, that no guideline laid down by the personal insolvency agency will be mandatory or have a condition that anybody has to give up a job," Mr Kenny said.

Asked about the apparent disparity of views this morning Mr Varadkar said the debate on insolvency rules should properly wait until the new rules are published. But he said he was "happy to clarify" that he and the Taoiseach were saying the same thing.

He told reporters that when the new rules are published "we can have an informed debate on it, rather than just worrying people who are in debt and who are worried enough.

Mr Varadkar said he did not need to be told, as had been the case, that childcare was not a luxury. "I represent a constituency full of young couples, young families, and for many of them childcare is almost a second mortgage. It is extremely expensive and it is an area where the government needs to do more, particularly in terms of early childhood education".

But he said this was "a separate issue and a bigger issue than personal insolvency and deserves debate in its own right".

"What the Taoiseach said yesterday, he is absolutely right. It is what I said on Tuesday and maybe I should have repeated it, maybe I should have been clearer. I am sorry if I said anything that was contradictory but what I said on Tuesday, what the Taoiseach said yesterday, was that nobody was going to be asked to give up their job or their career, no man, no woman, will be asked to give up their job or their career to enter into a personal insolvency arrangement, and that is absolutely the case and I am happy to clarify that".

Asked if he regretted his original remarks Mr Varadkar repeated that he was "happy to clarify" the position.

The personal insolvency legislation is due to come into effect later this year. Among the changes are that people can be discharged from bankruptcy after three years rather than the current 12-year period.

It is also intended to introduce a system of writing off debts of up to €20,000 subject to a three-year supervision period.