Fianna Fáil Senator Marc Mac Sharry has expressed his disappointment at the Government’s rejection of his Bill clamping down on loan sharks.
Senator Mac Sharry commented: “This is a missed opportunity for the Government and it is deeply regrettable that they have rejected this Bill. Minister Alan Shatter seems to think the Bill would obscure the law by merging existing offences when, in actual fact, it clearly defines a new offence. The Bill would also ensure court protection for the victims and increase punishment for those convicted. The statistics speak for themselves, there has never been a conviction for illegal money lending.
“This is a non-adversarial Bill that makes a genuine attempt to address the scourge of illegal money lenders. We need to act and legislate for this as matter of urgency.
“The Bill would prohibit unlicensed money lenders from subjecting their victims to harassment. It would increase the penalty for illegal money lending from 5 years to 14 years. It is plainly obvious that the current punishment for this crime is not acting as a deterrent .
“Loan sharks in Ireland are using threatening and often violent tactics to hound people into paying their debts. It is causing fear and anxiety for thousands of people that are saddled with debt. These people are vulnerable and the law as it currently stands does not protect them.
“Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable and this Bill seeks to address the anomalies in the system. By rejecting the Bill, the government is sending out the wrong signals to victims of illegal money lenders. This Government has lost touch with the people, unscrupulous illegal money lenders are making life miserable for thousands of people and this Bill aims to deal with this. It is very disappointing that the Government has rejected this Bill and the reasons provided simply do not stack up.”