114. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will reduce the bankruptcy period from three years to one year to encourage entrepreneurs back into business as soon as possible after bankruptcy because high-potential businesspersons are locked out of the system for three years and emigrate in many cases; and if this will be done as a step of last resort as a resolution to family home repossessions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27830/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy will recall, a very substantial change to Ireland's bankruptcy regime was made by the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, which reduced automatic discharge from bankruptcy from 12 years to 3 years. This Government has also substantially reduced the costs of bankruptcy - from around €1400 in total in 2012, to just €270 euro from 1 January 2015. While bankruptcy used to be predominantly sought by creditors, since late 2013 almost all bankruptcies are sought by the debtor.
I recently referred the issue of reducing the bankruptcy term from three years to one year, and the associated topics raised in a recent Private Members' Bill by Deputy Willie Penrose, to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, with a request that the Committee report to Government on its conclusions before the summer recess.
Both the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, and the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013, contain provisions which are designed to ensure that agreed solutions, which are fair to all parties, are made available for debtors struggling with unsustainable debts, and in particular, that loss of the mortgaged home is an option of last resort.
As you may be aware, on 13 May the Government agreed a series of further measures to support borrowers struggling with unsustainable mortgage arrears. These include a major reform of the personal insolvency legislation, which will give the Courts the power to review (and, where appropriate, to impose) a proposed personal insolvency arrangement that has been refused by creditors, subject to certain conditions. The relevant amending legislation is a priority for me and the Government and will reflect the very fundamental principle that loss of ownership of a family home through repossession should be a last resort.