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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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Column: Exporting our troubles is an Irish speciality

Ireland’s solution has always been to send our problems abroad, writes Jillian Godsil – and we’re still doing it today.

Jillian Godsil

AS A NATION, we have become adept at exporting our troubles.

When our population soared in the mid-1800s we exported our surplus population by the coffin ship. There just were not enough potatoes to go around.

When we grew a pair and started to demand national self-determination and that spilled into active resistance in the next century, so we began flexing the fledging muscles of independence. But then when a timely and largely indiscriminate thin red line was drawn across the upper province of our country, we managed to export the actual violence and daily grind of sectarian anger and destruction over the border.

When we were unable to cope with the concept and possible results of sex outside of marriage, we exported our pregnant teenagers to the UK to have abortions. We still export this problem for distressed women who need a termination regardless of marriage status.

When we could not tolerate any breakdown in the sanctity of marriage, we exported that problem too for a long time. Even now, we operate a splintered path to divorce, a two part process that draws out the painful division of a couple, resulting in months, even years of arguing to divide a union that took mere weeks to join up. Only the solicitors benefit from these convoluted and intolerant legal machinations.

When we could no longer employ our young people in this depressed economy, we again export them in their thousands. And to our national collective shame, the largely xenophobic welcome we gave the recent economic emigrants to our country, is being visited on those young people as they seek work abroad. The Irish are not the only race with long memories.

When the country is awash with huge debt, sovereign, banking, and personal, we do not take the bull by the horns. Our antiquated bankruptcy laws are just that, designed to punish the person who failed. We so lack the American foresight that endorses our very own (exported) Samuel Beckett’s view: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’

‘We cannot protect them, so we export them’

To be a bankrupt often implies the person was an entrepreneur, a doer, a creator of jobs and wealth, not just a PAYE worker or public servant. The person who fails once may yet succeed again. This especially applies to someone like Ivan Yates. Yates, an honest businessman who succeeded and failed, is being penalised beyond his failure, he is being punished by the financial institutions that fawned over him in better days.

We are told that new laws are coming in, news laws to solve the bottleneck of insolvency in this country. But instead of adopting the refreshing bankruptcy laws just across the water, we are coming up with a different variation. It is too slow and penal still. Why not review the UK bankruptcy laws, take the best bits, and implement them here?

Why do we have to take so long, kowtow to the financial institutions, and still bring in limited, penal solutions? If the bank guarantee was created in a single long night, why does our insolvency legislation need more than a year to create, and still favour the banks over the individual?

Bringing in these imperfect solutions will not stop the tide of bankruptcy tourism to the UK. Businessmen like Yates will no doubt avail of that course, and why not? Why wait to be punished here by the same authority that caused the problem in the first place when a short trip across the water can cleanse the debt without rancour.

Except, exporting our bankruptcy problems has the double whammy of causing real stress to the individuals forced to emigrate house, family and work to a fairer jurisdiction, while local creditors will struggle to obtain any recompense when dealing with a foreign legal system. And when you export the good people, they may not come back.

Two Sundays ago, we woke to the news that the Collins family from Limerick have left these shores. So it has come to this: law-abiding citizens who stand up and testify against known gangs are the very people we export. We cannot protect them so we export them. We cannot police our growing gang culture, so the good guys get the shove.

We are a nation that excels at exporting our troubles. Shame we have as yet not managed to export our scourges with the same gusto: paedophile priests, corrupt politicians, lazy regulators, greedy developers, hardened criminals, arrogant solicitors and choking bankers.

Jillian Godsil is a writer living south of Dublin. She runs a public relations business, is a freelance journalist and is writing four books this year. She lives with her two teenage girls, dog, cat and four horses in a tiny village. For more, see jilliangodsil.com.

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