Tuesday, 17 December 2019
There has been a moment of enlightenment and clarity on the part of those in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who have finally realised the nature of the spin they have been swallowing from the insurance industry for the past couple of years. The reality is that all this information was available to the Taoiseach and Deputy Micheál Martin, and their Deputies, if they wanted to look at it. We did not have to wait for a comprehensive report from the Central Bank to tell us of the spin and blatant lies from the insurance industry that were pedalled by the Taoiseach and Deputy Micheál Martin on the floor of this House.
Last week, another insurance provider, Ironshore Europe, one of the biggest insurers in the childcare sector, withdrew from the market. The Taoiseach may be aware of Ironshore, although I believe that none of his Ministers has reached out to that company or to any childcare providers. Nothing has been done about the fact that some childcare operators are likely to close their doors and will not be able to reopen in January 2020. Ironshore was the insurer of the four crèches that were completely exposed on an RTÉ programme in the summer. Those crèches are the subject of a number of litigation cases. There has been an injunction in the courts seeking to prevent Ironshore from withdrawing insurance cover for them. Those crèches will no longer be allowed to operate or be trusted to supervise and care for children.
We are now left with only one insurance provider in the sector. That company is asking childcare providers for approximately triple the amount they paid for insurance in the past. Some of these providers are not-for-profit organisations. I spoke to representatives from one provider and discovered that its premium will increase from €1,800 to almost €5,000 in January. The provider in question simply does not have the money and does not know what it is going to do when it closes its doors on Friday. Where will it find the money? Will it be able to reopen in January? What will happen to the 80 children to whom care is provided by the organisation to which I refer and which is a centre of excellence for those with additional needs?
The Government has done nothing in respect of this issue. I tabled a parliamentary question last week regarding what engagement there has been with the childcare sector and what meetings the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, has had with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, on this issue. There has been absolutely no action whatsoever. The Central Bank issued its report yesterday and it has provided clarity for both parties here. That report completely rebuts the spin of the industry and is a damning indictment of the Government, which has refused to hold the industry to account and which has done worse by pedalling the spin put out by the industry. As I did in the case of the Minister for Finance last month, I ask the Taoiseach to stop making the claim that insurance premiums have dropped by 27%. Do they not understand what is involved here? I have made the point on the record of the Dáil on numerous occasions that the Central Statistics Office, CSO, asks about one particular policy. The data are there across all claims and they show that, from 2016 to 2017, insurance premiums went up by 15% and by a further 2% in 2018. The figure is going up by 17% rather than down by 27% as the Government has claimed.
The leader of Fianna Fáil addressed this House on 1 October and claimed that the compensation culture is rife. Last week, he blamed the culture of claiming at any cost for the rising cost of insurance. The facts indicate clearly that the cost of claims has actually decreased by 2.5% since 2009. I will conclude by stating that the number of people claiming has dropped by 40% and the number making personal injury claims by 20%. Will the Government please stop swallowing the guff from the industry and join me and others-----