THE first personal insolvency court to sit in Clare was held before Judge Patrick Meghan at Ennis Courthouse on Thursday.
In the case, a protection certificate was granted to a Clare man as part of a personal insolvency arrangement. The single case before the court related to the Clare native’s liabilities of €1.8million.
This is the first time the new special circuit court has sat in the county. The matter before the court was the highest liability to come before the personal insolvency court in Ireland to date.
The court was set up following the enactment of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, which not only established the court but also provided for a special circuit court judge to hear these matters. The cases are then processed by the Insolvency Service of Ireland.
The first personal insolvency court took place in Monaghan in October 2013 and since that time, there have been 13 further hearings.
John Hogan, one of two personal insolvency practitioners (PIP) registered in County Clare, outlined that the applicant in Thursday’s case had 14 creditors. He said he was engaging with the person to try to re-negotiate the debt with these creditors.
The applicant sought a protection certificate, which would give him 70 days to engage with creditors in an effort to come to a debt -management arrangement.
Although the court heard that the applicant has assets of €394,900, these assets are primarily tied up in property of which he is not the sole shareholder.
After hearing details of the applicant’s circumstances, his assets, liabilities, income and expenses, Judge Meghan granted the application for a protection certificate.
Following his order, Judge Meghan said “the PIP’s role is crucial” in these matters and addressing Mr Hogan he said he was “very much an honest broker in this matter”.
He also addressed members of the media present, stating that he realised these cases are of public interest, as this is a new court of jurisdiction dealing with the great “number of people in debt in this country”.
Judge Meghan said the public will be interested in the outcomes of these matters, particularly to see what percentage of the debt is written down.
He gave instructions to the media in relation to the reporting of this case and the matters before these courts stating, “behind each of these cases are people with difficulties”.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Hogan said a lot of work went into the application before it came before the court. “I’ve had four meetings with the debtor, so there is a good bit of work involved. The first meeting generally calms people down, and the protection certificate let’s them have a chance to put this behind them,” he noted.
He said the process also gives the debtor “breathing space” to work towards “sorting out their debts rather than them burying their heads in the sand”.
Mr Hogan added that if this service was available to people sooner, it might have “saved a few marriages”.
The next step in the process is for the debtor with the PIP to arrange meetings with the relevant creditors to try to restructure the debt.
“It is a number crunching exercise from here on in,” he said.
Mr Hogan’s practice is based in Abbey Street, Ennis and 50% of his clients would be from County Clare, which amount to approximately eight to nine people currently.
Not all of these matters will necessarily need to come before this special court, he said, as it depends on the circumstances. Mr Hoganadded, “everybody is different”.