Compo cul­ture won’t end un­til sky high pay-outs are fi­nally slashed

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - david looby [email protected]­ple­

THE rap on the knuck­les Fine Gael TD Maria Bai­ley got last week was a wel­come move by Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar but it changes noth­ing in our compo cul­ture coun­try.

The real­ity, ladies and gen­tle­men, is that we are sleep­walk­ing into a cul­ture in which en­ti­tle­ment is en­abled and in which busi­nesses are ever-lay­ing golden geese for so­lic­i­tors and base op­por­tunists. Pay-outs for whiplash, ac­ci­dents at chil­dren’s leisure cen­tres, defama­tion cases, cases against lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are all eye-wa­ter­ingly huge. Go­ing to court for a few days is be­yond the means of most busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als so in­surance com­pa­nies in­vari­ably set­tle and this is ex­actly why it is far too easy for peo­ple to make a killing – even when they are of­ten to blame for their own mis­for­tune.

Pay-outs of up to €10m are not un­heard of in our courts and that has been for defama­tion cases – crazy stuff!

In May the EU Com­mis­sion fi­nally made the de­ci­sion to launch a for­mal probe into the Irish in­surance mar­ket. Mean­while the gov­ern­ment’s ju­nior fi­nance min­is­ter Michael D’Arcy Jnr has said he doesn’t trust the in­surance in­dus­try, while Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty went one fur­ther, ac­cus­ing in­sur­ers of ‘goug­ing’ cus­tomers, given that their prof­its shot up by 1,300pc in one year.

‘I don’t trust them. They are in­volved in price goug­ing, they are in­volved in spin, they are in­volved in blus­ter. They made prof­its of a quar­ter of a bil­lion euro in 2017,’ Mr Doherty said.

Last week the in­surance cri­sis es­ca­lated af­ter one of the last firms cov­er­ing the leisure sec­tor pulled out of the Irish mar­ket; a move which puts thou­sands of jobs at risk. As a par­ent of two chil­dren who are turn­ing six and eight in Septem­ber, I will be one of many strug­gling to find some­where to throw a party be­cause more and more com­mu­nity halls have had to stop al­low­ing func­tions to be held due to spi­ralling in­surance costs.

Ox­ford-based LeisureIn­sure said it will not quote for new busi­ness from this week, and from the end of the month will cease all re­newals. It was one of the last few in­sur­ers cov­er­ing event com­pa­nies, bouncy cas­tle op­er­a­tors, leisure cen­tres, yoga classes, soc­cer teach­ers, drama classes, some play cen­tres and a large num­ber of leisure com­pa­nies. Op­er­a­tors in the leisure sec­tor largely rely on Bri­tish in­sur­ers as Irish-based in­sur­ers fear in­cur­ring large losses on what is called li­a­bil­ity in­surance.

LeisureIn­sure was a man­age­ment agent for insurer Ax­aXL in this mar­ket. It dealt with in­surance bro­kers and di­rectly with pol­i­cy­hold­ers. The Al­liance for In­surance Re­form said thou­sands of busi­nesses would not be able to get cover, al­though some cover is be­ing pro­vided to the sec­tor by bro­kers with ac­cess to a spe­cial­ist di­vi­sion of Al­lianz.

By strip­ping Maria Bai­ley of her plum €9,000 plus a year chair­per­son role on a hous­ing com­mit­tee, Mr Varad­kar has hit her where it hurts, in the pocket. Bai­ley was found (by her party) to have ex­ag­ger­ated her in­juries when she fell off a swing in a ho­tel while hold­ing drink, and the way the sham­bles played out in the press ear­lier this year was hugely em­bar­rass­ing for a gov­ern­ment per­ceived to be more up­per crust than work­ing class. So long as busi­nesses, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions are deemed al­ways to blame when an in­jury oc­curs on their prop­erty and as long as pay outs con­tinue to be four, five times the Euro­pean norm, the ‘gougers’ in in­surance com­pa­nies and the peo­ple al­ways on the game for easy money will con­tinue to live it up.

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar has shown some lead­er­ship in his treat­ment of Maria Bai­ley.

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