Motorists getting raw deal is not acceptable
The Central Bank, the financial watchdog of the citizens of this country, has found itself accused in the recent past of being more of a champion of the commercial banks than of their customers.
Yesterday, the Consumers Association called for its regulators to go before an Oireachtas Committee to account for their failure to act on another crisis, this time concerning motor insurance costs. Michael Kilcoyne, on behalf of the association, says it is disappointing that the Central Bank was encouraging insurers to hike their premiums to stem losses. "Disappointing" is a mild way of putting it, and those like the young man we report on today who was offered a quote of €14,000 might put it more colourfully.
Just as we bailed out the banks, drivers have also been paying for the losses at Quinn Insurance with a levy of 2pc on their policies. It seems every time a major financial institution or trader fails, the bill is handed down to the public.
Now motorists must accept that in the matter of rising premiums, far from being shielded, the protector of their interests has actually been encouraging the rises. The ratings agency Standards & Poor has also taken issue with the efficacy of the Central Bank in keeping insurers in check. The evidence speaks for itself: policies have gone up by 35pc in the past year alone. "They are supposed to be regulating them, but they are more like big brothers to insurance companies," Mr Kilcoyne claimed.
As is argued elsewhere in this paper, we cannot continue to ignore the facts on why motor insurance rates are rising in Ireland. The higher premiums rise, the more uninsured drivers there will be on the roads. Stability in the market is vital. Claims volatility is also a factor that must be addressed. Whether it is the Central Bank, the insurance industry or an Oireachtas Committee that finally puts a brake on these rises is something of a moot point.
One thing remains clear, and that is that the motorist is getting a raw deal and that is far from acceptable.
Let’s face it – our country has a real drink problem
It was the poet AE Housman who wrote the often quoted line: “Some individuals use statistics as a drunk man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.” Over the years, we have been fed a blizzard of numbers, graphically setting out the scale of the alcohol problem in Ireland and supported by enough evidence to convince any jury that, as a nation, our relationship with the drink is far from healthy.
But that’s about as far as we appear able to get; illumination is as far away as ever as far as changes in behaviour are concerned. The figures published today suggest that ‘Drink Sensibly’ campaigns, however worthy and well intended, are not having the desired effect.
In terms of annual alcohol consumption, the Irish drinker, we are told, can put away 46 bottles of vodka or 130 bottles of wine or 498 pints of beer.
It has been estimated that alcohol-related harm in Ireland currently claims three lives a day and costs the State an estimated €3.7bn annually. It continues to put enormous strain on our overburdened health service, accounting for 2,000 beds occupied by people with alcohol-related illnesses every day.
The depressing conclusion is that despite the strides made in education, the health warnings and the growing awareness of the dangers of bingeing, we are still not taking care of ourselves. While the French and Italians may sip, we, it seems, are intent on being Europe’s guzzlers.