On Friday last, 31st August 2012, well-known broadcaster and personality, the former Fine Gael minister Ivan Yates was declared bankrupt in Swansea County Court in Wales. This is the official record of his bankruptcy held by the UK’s Insolvency Service.
Ivan is described as a “Retired Businessman and Author of Apartment 25 Meridian Wharf, Trawler Road, Swansea, SA1 1LB” – that’s his new address by the way, not some new book that you might have overlooked! Unlike other Irish nationals being declared bankrupt in the UK in recent times, there is no mention on the official record at the Insolvency Service of an Irish address. It is also not clear what weight was given at the bankruptcy hearing, to recent efforts by AIB to have Ivan declared bankrupt in Dublin. In the case of Tom McFeely, the non-disclosure of bankruptcy proceedings in Ireland was material to the UK courts’ decision to overturn the bankruptcy order and Thomas was subsequently declared bankrupt in Dublin, though it is unclear if a mooted appeal in the UK courts is still ongoing.
The recent trend of financially-beleaguered Irish nationals having home addresses or dual homes addresses in Northern Ireland, England and elsewhere in the UK has not gone unnoticed. About 20 NAMA developers have already been declared bankrupt in the UK, though some of these would traditionally have been regarded as Northern Irish.
What does seem socially unjust is that wealthier individuals who can relocate from Ireland to the UK and who can shoulder the dislocation for a couple of years, can take advantage of the UK’s far more lenient bankruptcy regime which does not allow any creditor to be your gatekeeper if you are insolvent, and generally allows the emergence from bankruptcy in 12 months.
The Personal Insolvency Bill which was published in June 2012 promised to reform bankruptcy for individuals in Ireland. Instead it still gives your creditors, particularly your mortgage lender, the right to stop your bankruptcy bid and traditional bankruptcy at the debtors behest opposed by creditors still lasts 5-12 years. The Bill needs to be amended when the Oireachtas resumes business on 18th September, 2012.
How can it be right that Ivan Yates and his family are forced to move country, whilst at the same time thousands of Irish families are prevented by financial and other constraints from making similar moves, and these other Irish families are consigned to what still remains a barbaric bankruptcy system.
[The Sunday Independent carries an interview with the newly bankrupted Ivan today]