Paschal Donohoe told he ‘needs to get hands dirty’ in dealings with insurance industry

Finance minister tells Dáil he and Government intend to hold industry to account

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said he was “absolutely aware of the problems this issue is causing for businesses”. File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said he was “absolutely aware of the problems this issue is causing for businesses”. File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has been told “you need to get your hands dirty” and be more directly involved with the insurance crisis to deal with the spiralling cost of premiums.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said in the three years since Mr Donohoe became Minister he had had just one meeting with either the insurance industry or an insurance company. This was in March 2018 and was held to discuss US tax reform.

The Cork South-Central TD said Minister of State Michael D’Arcy who has special responsibility for insurance, had had “dozens of meetings with individual companies and with Insurance Ireland”, the representative body for the insurance sector.

Mr McGrath acknowledged meetings were not the only measure of Mr Donohoe’s involvement in the insurance issue “but you need to get your hands dirty and to get directly involved”.

Speaking during finance question time in the Dáil, Mr McGrath stressed “any attempt to resolve the insurance crisis will require the authority and power of the Minister for Finance”.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty told Mr D’Arcy his intentions when dealing with the insurance sector were good, but “you are not getting support at Government level”.

He added: “I know you dispute this suggestion but that is my view.”

However, Mr Donohoe said he had been directly involved in the completion of each of the reforms Mr D’Arcy had introduced to change the claims and awards system and secure reductions in insurance premiums.

This includes the passage of the Judicial Council Act which will establish a personal injuries guidelines committee of members of the Judiciary which will introduce new guidance for awards payments, once the Judicial Council is established.

Mr Donohoe said: “I have been involved in all of that because of the scale of the issue”. He was “absolutely aware of the problems this issue is causing for businesses, those involved in leisure activities and those who depend on leisure activities”.

Mr D’Arcy said the establishment of the new guidelines committee “pretty soon” would be a “game changer”.

Mr Doherty said, however, that the Government had not secured any commitment from the insurance industry as had happened 10 years ago when the industry gave a commitment to reduce premiums if certain reforms were introduced.

“This involved a very clear table, a schedule produced at the time which said that premiums would reduce by a certain amount for each given reform.”

Mr Doherty claimed the Minister of State was “taking the industry’s word at face value” when it is “ripping off its customers. It is doing so through dual pricing, exaggerated costs, and misleading information it puts into the public domain.”

Mr Donohoe said key figures in the industry had given a commitment to respond when the judicial council committee’s work was underway. “The Government and I intend to hold them to account in that respect.”