Monday 17 June 2019

Artists' plea to Madigan over 'crisis' caused by insurance

Claim that industry is 'unregulated' with underwriters 'naming their price'

Lobbied: Culture Minister Josepha Madigan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Lobbied: Culture Minister Josepha Madigan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

An Arts organisation called on Culture Minister Josepha Madigan to "spearhead" a campaign on insurance reform amid fears that spiralling premiums had led to a "crisis" for street performers and other artists.

Ms Madigan - who has been dragged into the controversy over Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey's personal injury action against a Dublin hotel - was lobbied by the Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network (ISACS).

The correspondence shows how concern over rising insurance is affecting organisations that fall into Ms Madigan's area of responsibility.

The cost for businesses and community groups has come into sharp focus in the wake of revelations about Ms Bailey's legal action.

Madigans Solicitors, which is owned by her brother and which Ms Madigan left in June 2017, represented Ms Bailey in the case she took against the Dean hotel after she fell off a swing in 2015.

The hotel denied liability and Ms Bailey has dropped the case.

Ms Madigan has faced questions over whether or not she advised her Fine Gael colleague on the legal action before she left the firm.

The minister has so far refused to clarify if she advised Ms Bailey, saying: "Whether I did or didn't, there's client-solicitor confidentiality so I'm not in a position to say."

ISACS director Lucy Medlycott wrote to Ms Madigan last June, praising her for her leadership of Fine Gael efforts to Repeal the Eighth amendment on abortion.

She wrote: "I now would like to ask you to spearhead another campaign and that is the issue of insurance reform. The insurance sector in Ireland right now is forcing many organisations into crisis."

Ms Medlycott claimed the industry appears to be "totally unregulated" with underwriters "naming their price".

She said claims were increasing gradually by 12pc but her sector had seen increases of more than 400pc.

Ms Medlycott asked that Ms Madigan highlight the issue with junior finance minister Michael D'Arcy, who is responsible for insurance reform, and set three objectives:

  • A Garda Insurance Fraud Unit funded by the insurance industry;
  • The reinstatement of the 'Blue Book' overview of insurance industry data published by the Central Bank;
  • To require judges who award damages in excess of the Book of Quantum to set out detailed reasons for doing so.

Ms Madigan's private secretary wrote back thanking Ms Medlycott for "highlighting this very important issue".

She said the correspondence would be forwarded to Mr D'Arcy and said: "Unfortunately, Minister Madigan has no remit in this area and would not be in a position to intervene in this matter."

Ms Medlycott told the Irish Independent her members are still calling on the Government to implement insurance reform urgently.

She accused the industry of targeting clients for price hikes and sending out a message "to anyone who engages in any type of physical activity that this is not a country where physical, community and creative work is valued or encouraged".

Ms Medlycott called on all ministers to realise the impact on communities and "our cultural infrastructure" and to "protect the many over the few, before it is too late".

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture said the Government "highly values culture and the arts and strongly supports cultural groups", pointing to increased funding.

She insisted the Government was making progress on insurance reform but was also "conscious of the difficulties that the cost and availability of insurance are having on some organisations".

The statement said there was "no silver bullet" but "significant progress" had been made in areas raised by ISACS.

While there is no plan for a dedicated Garda unit funded by the industry, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is said to be adopting a divisional focus on insurance fraud, with plans to train members around the country.

The statement also pointed to plans for a committee made up of judges to set guidelines for payouts in various types of personal injury claims.

Irish Independent

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