‘Compo Minister’ is branded ‘ineffectual’ as firms threatened by rising insurance costs

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‘Compo Minister’ is branded ‘ineffectual’ as firms threatened by rising insurance costs


Michael D'Arcy. Picture: Damien Eagers
Michael D’Arcy. Picture: Damien Eagers

The minister responsible for insurance reform has been described as “completely ineffectual” by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises association (ISME).

ISME said junior minister Michael D’Arcy was “just being ignored” and it was time for a senior minister “to take the issue by the scruff of the neck”.

The comments by ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell came as Mr D’Arcy insisted crucial legislation aimed at driving down the size of awards for less serious injuries, such as whiplash, could be passed by mid-July.

This is despite the fact the Government has yet to amend the Judicial Council Bill so judges can be assigned the function of recalibrating guidelines for general damages awards for various types of personal injury – a move recommended in a report published eight months ago by the Personal Injuries Commission.

The commission found payouts for whiplash and other soft tissue injuries are four to five times those in the UK.

But Mr D’Arcy said the Government was on schedule to have the amendments to the bill before the Seanad “in the next couple of weeks”.

In an interview on RTÉ’s ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’, he insisted he was doing everything he could to bring about insurance reform. He said the issue was “at the very top of the political agenda of the Government of Ireland”.

However, this claim was rejected by Mr McDonnell, who said businesses were facing closure due to inaction over high insurance costs.

“This is not a top priority for the Government. If it was, we would see a Cabinet minister leading on it,” he said.

Even if the Judicial Council Bill is passed by the Dáil summer recess, the Department of Justice has said it would be the end of the year before a council is established.

Earlier this week, Rathbeggan Family Adventure Park in Co Meath announced it would be closing due to the spiralling cost of insurance cover.

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Mr McDonnell predicted more businesses would follow.

“The businesses worst affected by this issue do not have the luxury of time. They face an existential crisis that could shut them down this year or next,” he said.

“Their constitutional rights to earn a living are being ignored in the face of a non-existent constitutional right to large awards for soft tissue injuries.”

Despite the clear recommendation of the Personal Injuries Commission last September, the Government only reawakened the Judicial Council Bill last month when it completed committee stage in the Seanad. Prior to that, it had been stalled since November 2017.

Mr D’Arcy claimed he pursued the option of implementing an interim council before Christmas.

However, it wasn’t until February 13 that Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan wrote to Chief Justice Frank Clarke proposing the stop-gap measure, which would have involved judges participating in a group with department and Personal Injuries Assessment Board officials to revise guideline award levels.

The Irish Independent yesterday revealed how in a letter to Mr Flanagan on February 27, the chief justice rejected the proposal for a number of reasons, including that it would be open to legal challenges.

Irish Independent


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