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Dáil Speech on Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011

Tuesday 12th July 2011

 I welcome Deputy Catherine Murphy as the sole Member of the Opposition in the Chamber. On many occasions, Deputy Wallace remarked on the fact that there were no Deputies from the Government side or from some of the Opposition parties in the Chamber. I welcome this Bill. I will speak on the good Samaritan section and the changes to the Bankruptcy Act 1988.

I compliment Deputy Billy Timmins on initiating this legislation a number of years ago. His Bill did not get through the Dáil but, thanks to his hard work, we have a measure before us. Defibrillators are an important part of sporting and recreational facilities around the country. There is a worry in the sporting fraternity that those who were not trained but who are at the site may not be allowed to use them to aid someone in difficulty. There are clear instructions on defibrillators. The Minister might consider this point before tabling amendments.

There should also be notification in clubs and recreational facilities about volunteers and what is an act of a good Samaritan. The problem with this Bill and most legislation is that it does not use language we can all understand. One sentence in the Bill contains 75 words. I read to the end of the sentence and I had to go back to the start to understand it. Perhaps the Minister can examine simplifying the wording so that people can understand it. Notification should be displayed in clubs so that people know what they are eligible to do.

I welcome the modification of the Bankruptcy Act with a tinge of regret. Some 17 people were declared bankrupt in 2009 and 19 up to September 2010 yet, across the Border in Northern Ireland, in excess of 1,200 people were declared bankrupt. The difference between the two jurisdictions is the cost factor in going into bankruptcy. I speak for small businesses and those who suffered as a knock-on effect of not being paid. I refer to small contractors, small shopkeepers and householders. It is not economic for them to go into bankruptcy and MABS advises them not to do so.

The second factor is the time period for the discharge of bankruptcy. In the UK, one can be discharged from bankruptcy within 12 months. In Ireland, it is five years if one is a good boy and follows everything. Otherwise, it can increase to 12 years. This measure may bring us into line with what our neighbours on this island are doing. In the United States, under chapter 7 legislation, those who use the provisions of chapter 7 legislation are not allowed to go into bankruptcy for another six years. If we reduced the period to 12 months, 18 months or two years, we could include a stipulation that people cannot go into bankruptcy for a set period. I will not deliberate on other measures contained in this Bill. I hope the Minister will consider some of my comments this evening.