Bankruptcy & Work Schemes Update

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In a political world that is increasingly full of pundits, commentators and assorted talking heads spewing forth their unmandated views from morning to night; it is good to know that there are still those willing to listen and take good ideas onboard.
 
Two of the ideas I have championed in this column over the past few months now look like coming to fruition: though to varying degrees.
 
The first, on reforming the laws on bankruptcy is being adopted by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern. Along with a number of other important reforms the Civil Law Bill 2010, he published on Monday contains a section reforming the Laws on Bankruptcy, halving the period for the discharge from bankruptcy to six years.
 
This is a good move, but it is just one step. We still need to do more.
 
Dermot has acknowledged as much and will be making further reforms when the Law Reform Commission issues its final report on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement in the coming months. Reforming the law in this way is how we create the climate and structure for people to be unafraid of failure.
 
The other idea I had discussed here is the workfare concept which Minister Eamon Ó Cuiv looks like implementing, though not in as ambitious a form as I advocated. Eamon has stated that he plans to develop and expand the two existing schemes to give more opportunities to those signing on who want to maintain their skills or improve their employment chances. This move means 10,000 unemployed people getting €210 a week for 19.5 hours’ work.
 
I welcome this, but it needs to be more ambitious. This scheme could – and should – be expanded progressively. Last July, I suggested that it should be available to 100,000 and that the funding could come from the existing capital budget. I also said, anticipating ICTU’s reservations, that “participation would not be mandatory”. I am sure the uptake will be considerable as the people that I meet want the opportunity to return to the working environment as soon as possible.
 
While I would not claim unique ownership of these two ideas, I am a strong advocate of both and of the other ideas I have put forward here so far, particularly in the areas of intellectual property and developing the computer gaming industry.
 
While it would be nice to be able to continue this positive tone right through to the end of this week’s article, I regrettably cannot do that thanks to one of the commentariat I spoke about in the opening paragraph: Mary Ellen Synon.
 
On Monday she took to task for my observations in this paper last week that the public is frustrated by the apparent inability of the punitive organs of the State to bring at least some of the bankers to account.
 
As I was expressing the view of the vast majority of people I have been chatting with in recent weeks and months, I can only surmise that Ms Synon takes issue with them too. Bold public, Ms Synon is cross with you. Can you not see that those errant bankers who have burdened the State with billions in debt had, in Ms Synon’s opinion, only showed bad judgement?
 
Ms Synon’s own insight into the poor judgement bankers can exhibit, seems to have blinded her to the possibility that actual crimes may have been committed. She ignores my specific reference to Section 60 of the Companies Act, 1963 which makes it a crime for any company to provide assistance, directly or indirectly, in the purchase of its own shares. If that what happened in the case of the famous Anglo 10 then it is a crime Ms Synon, not poor judgement – and pointing it out is not indulging in lynch mob justice.
 
I am in good company when it comes to be maligned by her. I, like many others, recall her distasteful diatribe against the Paralympics. I cannot pretend that her attack causes me any real unease, coming – as it does – from someone who still mistakes sensationalism for radicalism.

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