Monday 21 October 2019

Sinead Ryan: 'Something is fishy about our claims culture'

Notebook

'More money is paid out for whiplash here than anywhere else; I’d suggest we all must have softer necks, except it’s brass necks that are the problem' (stock photo)
'More money is paid out for whiplash here than anywhere else; I’d suggest we all must have softer necks, except it’s brass necks that are the problem' (stock photo)
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

I live not far from a lovely place called Rathbeggan Lakes. I used to bring my kids there when they were small and it's grown from a duck pond with a few swings and slides to a full adventure playground where you could easily spend an entire afternoon, or longer.

There are water activities, pedal boats, pony rides and paintballing, along with dozens of other things. Prices are reasonable and kids have fun; who couldn't love that?

Well, insurance companies for one. With this year's premium topping €40,000, it's simply beyond owner Dave Robinson's reach, and he has announced the facility's closure. After facing hike after hike for the last number of years, he's had enough.

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He hasn't had any claims to warrant the increase, but the leisure industry is a victim of Ireland's claims culture - which is consistently enabled by lawyers, inconsistent court awards and secretive insurance companies resulting in massive payouts for what we as children used to call 'accidents'.

Now, up to 200 festivals are at risk because of insurers taking fright, one of them is the Ballina Salmon Festival. In an office somewhere, most likely in a Dublin high rise, there sits a team of underwriters busily trying to work out just what kind of life-threatening, limb-endangering activities salmon may hold. It's a serious business. Down in Ballina of a July weekend, you would be shocked by the incredible perils posed by... eh, the annual teddy bears' picnic.

And as for the town choir event, which sees over 200 performers - without the slightest thought to the hazards involved - singing in harmony, naturally you can only imagine the heart attack it would induce in your average insurance assessor.

There's a wider conversation to be had over why our claim payouts trump those in the UK, Spain and other EU countries by multiples.

More money is paid out for whiplash here than anywhere else; I'd suggest we all must have softer necks, except it's brass necks that are the problem.

Match-making at shrine was twee but it got results

They say marriage is the insurance against loneliness, but sometimes the price is too high. Finding the perfect partner is fraught with risk and swiping on Tinder has meant the demise of more traditional methods.

Sadly, the Knock Marriage Bureau is closing its doors after five decades of match-making. You could poke fun at it every so often and we great sophisticates from the city would laugh gently and patronisingly at the notion of celibate priests finding husbands for nice Catholic young wans.

Operating out of Knock Shrine gave it the holy seal of approval. In reality, it served a real and valid purpose, though. Emigration was rural Ireland's greatest curse for many years; splitting up family farms, was another. If a couple had each other to lean on, both could be avoided.

Yes, it was a bit twee and it was John B Keane made real, but it worked in almost 1,000 cases where marriage was indeed the outcome.

I wonder if Tinder can say the same.

You'll need to come knocking for my vote

There's no insurance in the political game and this Friday is all or nothing for candidates. For the rest of us, there's the happier prospect of all those annoying posters coming down and recycling bins being that little bit heavier thanks to the flyers we didn't want posted through our letterbox.

I had only one canvasser, which is a pity because that's the only bit of the interminable process that's fun - watching candidates squirm on the doorstep. Do the rest of them think their mug on a piece of glossy paper I have to get rid of is enough for my vote? Not a chance.

Irish Independent

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