Revised Programme for Government must trigger urgent overhaul of debt law

12 October 2009

The revised Programme for Government issued over the weekend gives hope that the government will now take seriously the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the laws governing debt, stated legal rights group, FLAC, today.

The government programme particularly commits the government to reforming the manner in which debts are enforced and managed, to be based on the Law Reform Commission's recent Consultation Paper on the topic.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD had already stated in the Dáil that he was waiting for the Law Reform Commission's report to inform debt law reform. FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell today acknowledged the focus on debt in the programme for government, but warned that change is needed urgently.

"FLAC welcomes the fact that Government has finally accepted that laws on debt in Ireland must be reformed," said Ms Blackwell. "However, this must be followed up with real action, given that many in this country are facing huge stress due to debt, some because of redundancy and others because they were lent money recklessly by financial institutions. And our current regime on debt enforcement and management is completely inadequate and woefully outdated."

FLAC recommended a complete overhaul of debt enforcement procedures in Ireland and the introduction of debt settlement legislation in a major report in 2003. In July of this year, the organisation explored the debtor's perspective on the enforcement process in a second in-depth report, again calling for the establishment of out-of-court mechanisms for resolving debt cases.


Editors' notes:

1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.
2. The main points contained in the revised Programme for Government dealing with personal debt are:

  • introducing new measures to protect families having difficulties with their home mortgage payments
  • expanding the options available for dealing with debt situations,
  • expanding its own mortgage -support measures
  • regulating debt collection agencies.
  • introducing a new system of personal insolvency regulations allowing for a statutory non-court-based debt settlement system
  • seeking to establish a central Debt Enforcement Office to remove as many debt enforcement proceeds from the courts as possible

3. You can read more online about FLAC's work on debt law reform.
4. The latest copy of FLAC's newsletter is available online in PDF format.
5. The Law Reform Commission published its consultation paper on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement in September (see also FLAC comment)
6. Judgment was given by Ms Justice Laffoy in the McCann case on 18 June (see also discussion article in FLAC News). It led directly to the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Bill that was passed in July.