Maria Bailey: Minister calls for ‘common sense’ approach to compensation

Humphreys does not refer to party colleague by name but comments in Dáil follow controversy over swing case

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys did not refer to her party colleague Maria Bailey by name. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys did not refer to her party colleague Maria Bailey by name. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys has said the compensation culture in Ireland must be changed and “people need to have some common sense” and “responsibility for their own personal safety” if they have an accident.

She was speaking in the Dáil following questions about the costs of doing business in Ireland and the “Maria Bailey fiasco”, in reference to a personal injury case taken by Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey against a Dublin hotel which she dropped last week and about which she spoke in an RTÉ interview.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary raised the issue in the Dáil.

Ms Murphy said “the Maria Bailey fiasco week has once again put it back into the spotlight and I’m sure it’s hugely embarrassing for yourself and your party colleagues there’s a much bigger picture here at play that you have to deal with”.

Ms Humphreys did not refer to her party colleague by name.

She knew “how frustrating it is for business when fraudulent or exaggerated claims are made because many of them do feel that they are being punished for this compensation culture and I have to say that my view on this is very simple.

“People need to have some common sense and they need to be responsible for their own personal safety.

“So if you trip or you fall you have to ask yourself why it happened and more often than not the answer is because of their own carelessness and we need to change this culture because there is a culture in this country that if you have an accident it’s everyone’s fault except your own and that applies to the play yard as well. It’s a culture in this country.”

The Minister added that in the past if a child fell “you were dusted down and sent back to school”.

But “now people look to see is there opportunity here and I think that’s a culture we have to change and we need people when they have an accident they have to look at their own responsibility for their own welfare”.

Ms Murphy praised the Minister for her comments.

She said “you are also referring to your colleague and showing some leadership in relation to your personal relationship to responsibility”.

Ms Murphy said a significant factor in the high cost of doing business was the claim culture and poor court process for dealing with claims and using the book of quantum.

Mr Calleary had earlier claimed the Government had taken “zero action” and displayed no sense of urgency about dealing with significant insurance premium hikes “until the Fine Gael brand was affected”.

He called on the Government to act for businesses and homeowners and “forget your own party”.

Mr Calleary raised the issue after reports that Fort Lucan Adventureland based in Lucan, Co Dublin had been forced to reduce its services and remove two trampolines from its premises after a public liability insurance increase of €25,000

The Mayo TD claimed the Government engaged in “nice words” and “group hugs” with small and medium-sized businesses about the hikes in insurance premiums but there was “zero actions”.

He said 61 playcentres and crèches were threatened with closure due because of insurance increases.

Mr Calleary pointed to legislation by Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath which would penalise people bringing spurious claims but it was languishing in the Oireachtas and he said the Government backed off suggested plans to have a special Garda unit dealing with insurance fraud.

He warned that “nice words and pats on the back” would not be enough to save thousands of jobs in hospitality, childcare and other sectors facing this problem.

Ms Humphreys said they were keenly aware of the problem. She said three Bills had been passed in the last year by the Oireachtas including one strengthening the role of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

And there more meetings between An Garda Síochána and the insurance industry.

“There is not a silver bullet here. But taken together all these measures will reduce the cost of claims,” Ms Humphreys told the Dáil.