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Top ministers hold talks with insurance reform campaigners

Meeting told there is trenchant resistance to changes from insurers and lawyers and that last Government failed to get a grip on crisis

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Insurance reform: Justice Minister Helen McEntee

Insurance reform: Justice Minister Helen McEntee

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Insurance reform: Justice Minister Helen McEntee

Senior ministers have held a high-level meeting with the Alliance for Insurance Reform as the Government attempts to grapple with the insurance crisis hitting businesses and consumers.

The meeting was told the previous Government had failed to get a grip on the crisis, the Irish Independent has learned.

No press release was issued about the face-to-face meeting, which was attended by Tánaiste and Employment Minister Leo Varadkar, Justice Minister Helen McEntee, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Michael McGrath, junior Trade Minister Robert Troy, and junior minister with responsibility for insurance reform Sean Fleming.

The new Government has increased the focus on insurance reform, which was traditionally the responsibility of a junior minister.

Alliance members present included Ivan Cooper of the Wheel, Padraig Cribben of the Vintners' Federation, Eoin McCambridge of McCambridge's of Galway, playcentre owner Linda Murray, and director of the Alliance Peter Boland.

The Government ministers were told nothing had been achieved by the last Government to exert downward pressure on premiums.

The Alliance claimed there is trenchant resistance from lawyers and insurers to insurance reform.

Ministers were told there is no need for more reports on the issue.

The Alliance said there was an urgent need for a reduction in the quantum of general damages for minor injuries.

The duty of care an occupier must show towards visitors and other parties should be rebalanced as it has evolved into an absolute duty of care, the politicians were told at Wednesday's meeting.

Proper funding was needed for the Garda response to insurance fraud, and insurers must commit to reducing premiums once reforms are in place, it was said.

Alliance members said they fully support moves to reform the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

This was set up to avoid legal costs in the settling of personal injuries claims. The meeting was told it has been undermined by a succession of legal challenges.

This means only 20pc of personal injury claims are now settled through PIAB.

The fact the State apparatus has not given greater support to firms making claims under business interruption polices was also raised.

Alliance members said they were not aware of any business interruption payments being made.

Ministers are understood to have mainly listened rather than making points.

They told the Alliance they took on board its views and stressed they would work as a ministerial unit on insurance reform.

A memorandum for Government is to be prepared on the issue.

In the last Government, former minister of state at Finance Michael D'Arcy set up a working group on insurance reform. But his reform efforts were hindered by a lack of senior ministerial engagement in the issue, business sources say.

Irish Independent