Thursday 20 June 2019

'Alarm' as Ross move on judges could now delay compensation reforms

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross Photo: James Connolly
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross Photo: James Connolly
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Moves by Transport Minister Shane Ross to amend a key piece of legislation to tackle claims culture have been described as "alarming".

The Judicial Council Bill could be delayed after Mr Ross asked for an amendment to ensure judges publish a declaration of interests.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform said it was alarmed at the move as it said it would hold up the legislation.

In a bid to clamp down on the "compo" claims culture, the bill will include measures for judges to set up a committee to recalibrate the high level of personal injuries awards.

Alliance director Peter Boland welcomed the Government's decision to amend the Judicial Council Bill, revising the 'book of quantum' to ensure minor injuries attract minor awards.

He said that, at a meeting with the Alliance, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan promised to have the Bill enacted by the third week in July.

But Mr Boland said reports that the Judicial Council Bill could be delayed on the basis of further requests for amendments from the Minister for Transport were "alarming".

"We need this reform urgently. For some, it is too late and their business or festivals have closed. We are appealing to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport not to delay this bill."

Mr Boland said too many insurance reforms have been delayed because vested interests have dragged their feet.

"The only people to benefit from a delay in cutting minor injury awards are those who benefit from the current compensation culture," he said.

It is understood Mr Ross surprised his Fine Gael ministerial colleagues at Cabinet this week by asking for an amendment to be added to the Judicial Council Bill to require judges to declare their interests. This would involve judges setting out if they own shares in various companies, or if they own the likes of a buy-to-let property.

It comes as the Judicial Appointments Bill Mr Ross has championed has been filibustered in the Seanad.

There was understood to have been resistance to Mr Ross's suggested amendment but it was not ruled out.

It is understood Mr Flanagan pointed out that the Judicial Council Bill could pass through the Oireachtas by the summer recess - but any addition that judges should publish a declaration of interests could delay its enactment.

Mr Ross responded: "The bill will not be delayed. I fully support the urgent need for reform of personal injuries compensation claims. My proposal that judges should declare their interests has been on the table for several years and will be speedily dealt with, causing no delay to the bill."

Irish Independent

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