A group campaigning for reduced insurance costs said a dedicated garda unit tasked with tackling fraudulent compensation claims “could happen tomorrow if the political will was there”.
Peter Boland, director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform was speaking after Minister of State Michael D’Arcy ruled out funding a Garda Insurance Fraud Unit with money from the insurance industry.
Mr D’Arcy told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he has met with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and that he is not prepared to accept the Garda Síochána being funded from outside the Exchequer.
However Mr Boland said the issue of funding the unit is a ‘sideshow’ and a distraction: “The reality is that there's €17million sitting in the accounts of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board - that money came from policy holders who have had to defend cases through PIAB, the Exchequer are about to get control of it, that money would fund the Garda Insurance Fraud Unit."
“There is no need for any debate on this, it could happen tomorrow if the political will was there,” Mr Boland told the Today show on RTÉ Radio 1.
The same programme hosted a debate between former president of the Law Society, Stuart Gilhooly, and Kevin Thompson, CEO of Insurance Ireland.
Mr Gilhooly disputed Mr Thompson’s contention that the level of awards in Ireland is driving up premiums, and said a 22% reduction in premiums came despite no changes in the level of compensation pay-outs: “So I think it's a little bit unfair to constantly come out every month or so it seems to be the case now with the insurance industry and say they're not doing this not doing that."
Mr Thompson said the reductions achieved to date have been made by the industry rationalising costs within their control - and said payouts are a significant cost that companies have no power over: “The most recent report by the Central Bank of Ireland economic review published in December of last year, shows the profitability trend within the sector so it's all there for people to see."
“We've been very clear on this and we've been clear on two points. The first point is that the majority of claimants are honest and we've always said that and that has been my narrative. Secondly, what we've also said is that unless you address the cost of claims, you will not address the cost of insurance,” he said.
Mr Boland said the legal profession needs to do its part in tackling fraudulent and exaggerated claims: “The Irish College of General Practitioners, who would have to be seen as neutral in this area, have described the majority of compensated whiplash claims as frankly spurious and it is time for the legal profession to acknowledge this and it is time for the legal profession to put a stop to it internally because it's their reputation that is at stake at this stage here."
Mr Gilhooly said fraudulent claims “are the scourge of the legal profession and they're also the scourge of genuine claimants”.
“The last thing any lawyer wants is to be involved in a fraudulent claim. They destroy reputations, they are waste of time and money and they also ruin it for honest claimants,” he said.