Belfast Telegraph

Humphreys slams claim culture after question referencing Maria Bailey ‘fiasco’

The minister was asked a Dail question that referenced the controversial Maria Bailey case.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys (Brian Lawless/PA)
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys (Brian Lawless/PA)

A government minister has told people to take responsibility for their own misfortunes as she criticised the country’s claim culture.

Heather Humphreys was responding to a call to tackle spiralling insurance premiums in a Dail question that specifically referenced the “fiasco” around a claim pursued and then dropped by Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey.

Mrs Bailey took a personal injury claim against an upmarket Dublin hotel after falling from a swing in its cocktail bar.

The Dublin South TD has faced intense scrutiny since details of the case were reported last week.

The case has caused anger among senior colleagues in Fine Gael, especially as the negative media coverage came in the days before Ireland went to the polls in the local and European elections.

Mrs Bailey, who says she has been subjected to trial by media, revealed at the weekend that she has now dropped the action against the Dean Hotel, insisting she had only taken it to recoup medical costs for an injured back.

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Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey claims media criticism of her claim has been unfair (Niall Carson/PA)

Mrs Humphreys did not reference her party colleague directly in the Dail on Tuesday as she criticised of the mindset of many Irish people who pursue claims.

“My view on this is very simple – people need to have some common sense and they need to be responsible for their own personal safety,” she said.

“So if you trip or you fall you have to ask yourself why it happened and more often than not the answer is because of your own carelessness.

“But people need to accept that and we need to change this culture because there is a culture in this country that says when you have an accident it’s everyone’s fault except your own.”

She added: “And that applies to the play yard as well. It’s a culture in this country. When we were kids if you fell in the play yard you were dusted down and you were sent back to school the next day.

“Now people look to see is there an opportunity here and I think that’s a culture we have to change and we need people when they have an accident that they have to look at their own responsibility for their own welfare.”

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, who asked the initial question, said she took it that the minister was referring to Mrs Bailey in her answer.

“I take it minister that you are also referring to your colleague and showing some leadership in relation to personal responsibility in your comments there,” she said.

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Catherine Murphy warned that people might soon have to sign waivers to enter hotels and pubs in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

The Kildare North TD bemoaned the fact parents increasingly have to sign waivers to let their children use play facilities in Ireland.

“Given the events in the news just in the last days or the last week if there’s no change what we will see is the same will happen if you go into a hotel or a pub for adults – that kind of thing would be madness, there has to be action on this,” said Mrs Murphy.

“The Maria Bailey fiasco this week has once again put it back into the spotlight and while I’m sure it’s hugely embarrassing for yourself and your party colleagues there’s a much bigger picture here at play that you have to deal with.”

Earlier, Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary accused the Government of stalling on legislation to clamp down on spurious claims.

He claimed the Government was now trying to be seen to be moving on the issue.

“There was no sense of urgency or awareness until the Fine Gael brand was being affected by this – then suddenly there was an interest in it,” he said.

He told the minister to “forget your own party’s reputation” and “stand up for businesses” who were being crippled by soaring insurance premiums.

Mrs Humphreys insisted the government was taking a series of steps to address insurance premiums by introducing legislation to make it more difficult to pursue unwarranted claims.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked about the issue in Brussels on Tuesday and said he would be meeting Mrs Bailey at the end of the week.

“I heard what Minister Humphreys had to say today in the Dail and I think a lot of people in Ireland that would identify with that and agree with what she had to say,” Mr Varadkar added.

PA

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