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Number declaring bankrupt trebles

The number of people going bankrupt in Northern Ireland has more than trebled over the past decade, according to new figures.

A total of 1,250 people declared themselves bankrupt this year compared to 331 in 2001, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment confirmed.

This year's bankruptcy figures include a number of high-profile Northern Ireland people, such as footballer Keith Gillespie and former Armagh GAA manager Joe Kernan.

Around four people went bankrupt every day over the last financial year.

Ulster Unionist Assembly member David McNarry obtained the DETI statistics for the last decade.

The UUP finance spokesman said: "In many cases bankruptcy now seems, despite the shame, an easy option for people just to get rid of their debts.

"I am aware of the pressures people in business are feeling and not being able to manage their credit ratings with their banks and having to put their houses up as collateral.

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"At the end of the day they just feel they have nowhere else to go but make themselves bankrupt."

Some people declare themselves bankrupt and others are made bankrupt when a creditor owed money petitions a court.

The effect is serious, with bankrupts prevented from running a business or obtaining significant sums of credit. It takes several years to restore credit ratings.

But Debt Advice Northern Ireland said there was an alternative to bankruptcy.

"Many people see bankruptcy as their only choice when struggling with their debt problems.

"Depending on your circumstances, you could meet the criteria for an individual voluntary agreement or debt management plan," a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, cuts to a scheme which helps unemployed people with mortgage payments could lead to thousands of repossessions, a finance advice agency has warned.