Ireland - The Lost Generation

So what really is happening in Ireland today? some might say pretty pessimistically "Not Much"
Well one thing that is for sure is that its getting a hell of a lot harder to pay the bills as inflation rises, unemployment increases and debt is spiralling out of control.  Our airports are full of young talented people who are all waving one way tickets to far away fields, many never to return. 

I last spent more than a week with my youngest brother almost 10 years ago.  Barry is a good lad, ambitious type and has a good way with people.  He went to Australia for a gap year in 2003 to gain a bit of experience and sample a different lifestyle.  10 years after he first stepped off the plane in Sydney, he is still there, and to be fair to him he has created a new life for himself, reinvented himself as a professional real estate agent and life is good, he tells me (way too often)
I tell you this because nearly every other household in Ireland has a Barry in it.  The worrying thing from the country's point of view is that this trend is continuing at an alarming rate. 

I have deep concerns about the country over the next few years as clearly too many households are suffocated with debt, and the worrying thing is there seems to be very little help out there or solutions to assist such families.  Everyone accepts there is too much debt in Ireland, very little growth as austerity continues to bite and zero prospects to encourage people like Barry to come home and for others thinking off visiting the travel agents - to stay put. 

So how can we fix this? - sure it is not easy and is a long term problem however our banks have a key role to play to kick start the economy and let people  breath again.  Banks must start to deal with those who have significant debt problems by agreeing to write down the debt to an affordable level, so the debtor can move on and start to contribute to the economy again. 

As we all know Ireland is split in two - the North and the South and the legislation regarding insolvency is different.  For a professional person like myself who has the benefit of running a business in this area of work in both jurisdictions an observation would be that the North of the island (only just ) under the UK legislation is dealing with the issue a little better than our Southern counterparts.  The South is currently holding its breath for this miracle new insolvency legislation coming through later this year.  I (and i am not alone) have grave concerns regarding this new bill and even the most optimistic of people would suggest it ,may not be the answer as the banks have a Veto on the debt.

Today in Southern Ireland the Insolvency Service issued guidelines on what a family should be spending their finances on month to month basis.  With this we are now entering a very dangerous space and I would ask those in power to consider same.  These guidelines have been poorly thought out and need a little more consideration and work.

We should all remember one thing when we are discussing these matters.  The banking sector in Ireland was bailed out by the taxpayer, so in lay mans terms if this didn't happen the banks would be out of business - do you remember a bank called Anglo Irish bank, I sort of do but that was such a long time ago now !!!.  Surely it would then be reasonable to assume and only be fair that banks step forward and try to work with people through their debt issues which includes debt write down so we can all move on.  The reality is that most banks currently have a slow death policy in place in Ireland and to be frank this has to change. 

An observation again would be that there are three sets of people in Ireland right now;
1) The very wealthy  - this bunch is a small minority and their wealth will increase in years to come. Most of the country then falls into either of the next two categories either
2) those who are running out of money
3) those who have ran out of money.  This category is growing daily.

The optimist in me wants to believe that common sense will prevail and the banks will get off their godly thrones and come down to earth and try and deal with the debt problems.  Remember it was the institutions that lent the money in the first place with little to no diligence in many cases.

I would love to see the day Barry is back in Ireland with his family, and my children could play with their cousins who have Australian accents in a prosperous Ireland - is this a bridge too far?  maybe not as I have a good imagination!!

Lets wait and see what happens......