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Civil Debt Bill ‘latest Government move against low income families’ – McLellan

3 July, 2015

Speaking in the Dáil today on the Civil Debt bill, which will empower the courts to issue attachment orders on matters such as water charges, Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan has criticised the government for again bringing forward legislation that will target the most vulnerable in our society, saying this was a hallmark of a government that so recently cut lone parent supports.

Deputy McLellan also made the point of the rushed manner the Bill was brought forward, similar to the Environment Bill which was cut short last night.

Deputy McLellan said:

“The Civil Debt Procedure Bill 2015 was received Bill last Friday afternoon in a draft form and was changed by Monday to be debated this week. Like the Environment Bill, this is an unacceptable amount time to be given to fairly analyse and amend any legislation.

“The Minister said the new options contained in the Bill will be primarily of use to small businesses, tradespeople, and the self-employed trying to recover debts from those who can afford to pay, but won't pay. A vital aspect which she leaves out in her comments is utilities such as Irish Water.

“I believe that this legislation is an underhanded attempt to give Irish Water power to bully debtors.

“It allows creditors, including obviously Irish Water, as well as other utility companies and multinationals, to apply to Court for an order enabling the attachment of earnings or deductions from social welfare payments for the purpose of the enforcement of a debt.

“Sinn Féin believe that the option of an attachment order is going to again attack those on low pay and those on social welfare the most. There is no provision that requires creditors to resolve the issue outside of adversarial court proceeds.

“There is no method provided in the Bill to appeal an attachment order. This plainly favours creditors and limits debtors’ rights.

“The fact is that low income families who cannot pay these bills will suffer most. These are the people who have most at risk. Does the government not realise the effect both financial and psychological that these increasing debts will have? It is particularly disturbing to see Labour weigh in so forcefully behind the proposed implementation of further measures that will attack the lives of the most vulnerable.

“We have only recently witnessed the ambivalence, or even ignorance, towards calls for the cuts to Lone Parent payments to be halted, cuts that will affect 12,000 families as a result.

“We are now living in a society that has a shameful reality of 138,000 children living in continual poverty. We have over 1000 minors living in emergency accommodation.

“If Government is in any way sincere or serious about reducing this shameful figure of children living in consistent poverty in this state, they should radically reconsider the likes of the measures being introduced in the Civil Debt Procedure Bill or cuts to Lone Parent supports.” 

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