Minister says he ‘wasn’t most popular person in room’ at FG legal fundraiser

About 50 barristers pay up to €600 a plate to attend function with Michael D’Arcy

Michael D’Arcy, the Minister of State responsible for the insurance sector, said he went along to a Fine Gael  fundraiser attended by lawyers because he felt it was important to engage with the sector. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Michael D’Arcy, the Minister of State responsible for the insurance sector, said he went along to a Fine Gael fundraiser attended by lawyers because he felt it was important to engage with the sector. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

The Fine Gael minister aiming to reduce personal injuries payouts said he attended a party fundraiser with leading barristers because he “wasn’t the most popular person in the legal world”.

Michael D’Arcy, the Minister of State responsible for the insurance sector, said he went along to the dinner in a Dublin restaurant last Friday because it was a fundraiser for his party.

He also attended because the reductions in damages he was seeking in personal injuries cases through legislative changes did not make him popular amongst lawyers and he felt it was important to engage with the sector.

The dinner was held as the Government is on the verge of passing legislation to establish a new judicial council as the first step to reducing the level of damages awarded in personal injuries cases.

“Political parties have fundraisers all the time. This was an opportunity for people in one sector to participate,” Mr D’Arcy told The Irish Times.

“I went along because I am not the most popular person in the legal world. I am seen as someone who is potentially impacting on their profitability.”

Asked whether any of the barristers in attendance asked him to reconsider his planned reforms to reduce personal injuries awards, he would only say that he “wasn’t the most popular person in the room.”

About 50 senior counsel and junior counsel paid €600 and €400 a plate respectively to attend the party’s event at Suesey Street restaurant in the company of Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Mr D’Arcy.

‘Outrageous’

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described the event as “outrageous,” prompting Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd to criticise Sinn Féin’s foreign fundraising activities in the United States.

The party has insisted the fundraiser is in full compliance with Standard in Public Office rules which permit up to €1,500 being donated to a political party.

“I thought it was very hollow of Mary Lou to question our fundraiser when she has a very similar fundraiser of her own,” said Mr D’Arcy.

The minister said the Government had agreement from the parties to fast-track the Judicial Council Bill, first proposed 20 years ago, through the Dáil in two stages on Tuesday.

“This is very rare. It doesn’t happen very often all of the stages of a bill are taken in one day. But because of the urgency of this we have agreement for that to occur,” he said.

Once the bill becomes law, it would fall to the judiciary to establish the council and a committee to review the guidelines on personal injuries awards that were four to five times greater than in England and Wales, said Mr D’Arcy.

“I hope the judiciary can do their work quickly and efficiently so that we can reduce the levels of awards so we can put a better structure, sustainable insurance sector in place,” he said.