Shatter takes aim at 'diamond bazooka' engagement rings

Thu, Sep 13, 2012, 01:00

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has ruled out exempting “€300,000 diamond bazooka” engagement rings from proposed personal insolvency legislation.

The legislation is designed to allow debtors to emerge from bankruptcy after three years instead of 12.

Mr Shatter said no one would be deprived of a modest engagement ring valued at "a couple of hundred euro".

Labour TD Anne Ferris told him "most women would expect a lot more than a €100 ring". She said during the so-called Celtic Tiger period a lot of expensive rings were purchased.

"It would break lots of hearts if they had to hand back their engagement rings," she said.

The Coalition parties clashed when the Personal Insolvency Bill became the first piece of legislation to return to the Oireachtas for discussion this morning.

Mr Shatter told the Justice Committee that some "lucky recipients" of very expensive engagement rings had shown off their jewellery in the society pages of Sunday newspapers during the boom times.

"Some of these people have left this country because of the debts they have left behind them," he said.

"They’re looking for a debt relief notice but they want to hold onto the ring worth €300,000 or €400,000. Now let's get real about what we’re talking about here."

He rejected a proposed amendment to the legislation from Fianna Fáil that "one item of jewellery of ceremonial significance" be among the items not taken into account when debtors' assets are calculated on the grounds that no limit was put on the value of the item.

"One individual’s €100 ring that has ceremonial significance might be another individual’s €200,000 or €300,000 diamond bazooka that they regard as having a great deal more ceremony than the €100 ring," Mr Shatter said.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins accused the Minister of trivialising the issue. "Many ordinary, decent people out there have low-value engagement and wedding rings. We should seek to provide for them in some degree," Mr Collins said.

Meanwhile, Mr Shatter indicated he would consider increasing the value of a car that can be retained by debtors from the planned limit of €1,200.

Fine Gael TD Michael Creed argued the value was "excessively low". Self-employed people often used vans for their work and the vehicles were required to be road-worthy.

He cautioned against the potential to hamstring people’s capacity to engage economically and trade their way out of difficulty.

Sinn Féin deputy Pádraig MacLochlainn said while "obviously they shouldn’t be able to drive a top-of-the-range Mercedes", in huge areas of the State public transport was poor and a car of decent standard was necessary.

Mr Shatter said he would reflect on the car valuation aspect of the legislation.

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