2010 commercial debt in Westmeath just €5.2m - but “much worse” to come

In a year that saw the largest ever number of individual and corporate debt judgements registered in the Irish courts, Westmeath fared relatively unscathed, with its 72,000 residents attracting 139 judgements totalling just over €5.2m; however much worse is predicted.

BusinessPro, publisher of Stubbs Gazette, compiled a debt map of Ireland in in which Westmeath came in seventh from the bottom of a county by county breakdown of debt judgements obtained from the Commercial Courts last year

James Treacy, managing director of BusinessPro, said that 2010 was an "annus horribilis" for Irish debtors, and warned that 2011 would be a much worse as mammoth debts processed by the Commercial Court would be replaced by "a tidal wave" of consumer and mortgage debt that would materialise in the courts over the next two years, which he estimated would be in the region of €2 billion.

"Most of the consumer debt has yet to hit the courts, but with the end of the one-year moratorium for homeowners and other factors such as the proposed changes to our bankruptcy regime, we expect to see a huge surge in personal insolvencies connected with consumer debt,” he grimly forecast.

The breakdown of debt revealed that Cork and Cavan are the most heavily indebted counties, followed by Limerick, Laois, and Sligo, with the least number of court judgements per capita collected in Longford, Mayo, Donegal, Clare, and Roscommon.

Kilkenny earned the title of least indebted city, where its population of 80,421 had court debts of just €1.78m registered.

The residents of Co Cavan are among the most per capita indebted people in the country, where a population of 56,416 attracted debt judgements of just over €127m, whereas judgments totalling €1.38 billion were obtained from Cork natives, with one group of developers alone racking up judgments of €236m.

Co Longford’s 31,000 citizens attracted 59 judgements valued at just over €1m, while Co Leitrim with a population of 25,815 attracted 55 judgements totalling €2.5m, and Co Roscommon with a population of 53,803 attracted 134 judgements to the value of just €13,285.

A record €89.9m single order was obtained against Thomas Keane, Corrigeen, Stradbally, Co Laois, while Bernard McNamara was ordered to pay more than €62m over his debts incurred from the totemic disaster that was Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, Dublin.

"In the UK, there are 130,000 personal insolvencies every year with average debts of £200,000 (€234,000 ). Extrapolating those figures in an Irish context, we should be seeing at least 10,000 personal insolvencies a year here," said Mr Treacy.

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