Order of Business, Seanad Éireann 13th April 2017

I raise the issue of insurance premia generally and as they affect motorists and employers, in particular. The reason I am concerned about this is that it was the case that the former Minister and Tánaiste, Mary Harney, and I, together in our respective Departments in the period 2002-2007, instituted major reforms in personal injuries law and insurance law, including the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. There was a general downward movement in insurance premia at that time. Even though the economy of the country was probably overheating, the level of insurance premia noticeably went down. Since the downturn in the economy it is strange to see that insurance premia have been climbing back up again. There must be a number of reasons for this but it cannot just be a matter that there are more cars on the road or there are more people at work. The number of premia being exacted by insurers from employers and people who depend on insurance for their livelihood has gone up very substantially.

The plight of taxi drivers deserves particular mention. They are being driven off the ranks and out of business in the city of Dublin, with some finding that their premia have gone up from, say, €1,200 or €1,400 monthly to €2,000, €3,000 or €4,000, depending on whether they have had to make a claim of any kind. Some have been forced to retire because of the burden of insurance.

I am aware the Government has asked the former President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns, to consider the whole question of personal injuries awards. It is strange that although newspapers often report on fraudulent claims where, for instance, someone might have got into a car which might have been rammed by another car, and there are patterns of this in different locations around the country, I am not aware that there has been any effective Garda prosecution of those involved. Given that during early 2000, making a false claim became a criminal offence, the law needs to be enforced. Most of all, we need a genuine Government response to the rise in the cost of insurance and frequency of claims and the rise in fraudulent claims so that the progress that was made between 2002 and 2007 can be reinstated.

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