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FactCheck: Did Paschal Donohoe meet any individual insurance company in the midst of the insurance crisis?

Minister of State Michael D’Arcy said Minister Donohoe has met with the firms, Michael McGrath says he was told otherwise – but who is right?

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THE PRICE OF insurance was a political football last year and the issue is set to become one of the key election issues in the weeks ahead.

Opposition parties have criticised the government for failing to do anything about the rising cost of premiums in the last year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have been at loggerheads in the Dáil making conflicting claims about whether the price of car insurance has risen or fallen in recent years. 

There have been many, many debates about the impact of dual pricing and loyalty penalties imposed by companies, as well as numerous debates about a crisis for creches and play centres set to go to the wall over their rising premiums. 

The issue was raised on day two of the campaign trail, with Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath stating today: “Paschal Donohoe hasn’t even met the insurance industry or any individual insurance company in the midst of a worsening insurance crisis and that is simply incredible.”

This comment resulted in Minister of State and Wexford TD Michael D’Arcy, who held responsibility for the insurance industry in the last Dáil describing the statement as “Fake news”. 

In a tweet, he claimed: “Minister Donohoe and I have met with the major Irish insurers.”

When asked to clarify his statement that Donohoe has not met with any insurance companies, McGrath told reporters today: “The clarity is in all of the parliamentary questions which we have issued. If you look at my press releases, it is very evident. It’s there in black and white. That since Minister Donohoe came to office as Minister for Finance, he has not had a single meeting with the insurance industry or any individual insurance company to discuss the insurance crisis. That is fact and I challenge Fine Gael to counter that with facts because they don’t have them.”

But who is correct?

The Claim

This FactCheck will analyse D’Arcy’s assertion that Minister Paschal Donohoe has met with the insurance companies. 

The Evidence

McGrath states that his claim that Donohoe has not met with any of the main players in the insurance industry is based on a parliamentary question he asked at the end of last year.

In November, he asked the minister of finance about the number of times he has met with insurance companies and Insurance Ireland (the industry’s representative body) since 1 January 2016.

He also asked for the date of each meeting and the persons or bodies he met with.  McGrath also asked for details on what the purpose of the meeting was about.  An answer to the parliamentary question was received on 21 November 2019. 

It stated that Minister of State Michael D’Arcy was given a new portfolio in June 2017, which gave him specific responsibility over insurance.

“In that respect, Minister of State D’Arcy has taken a lead role in relation to chairing the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) and as part of that role, he has held numerous meetings with relevant stakeholders, including the insurance industry and its representatives. I believe that this has been appropriate and remains so, in light of the Minister of State’s responsibilities.”

It went on to state: “I do not believe that a measure of success for any Minister for Finance is the number of meetings held with any individual sector.”

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Following on from this, details in tabular form showed that former Finance Minister Michael Noonan had met with AIG chief executive on 1 December 2016.

It then listed that Donohoe had met with Insurance Ireland representatives on 28 March 2018 to discuss the implications of US tax reforms, not the mounting insurance crisis in Ireland. 

There were no listings of any meetings between Minister Donohoe and any insurance company since 2016. 

meeting

As mentioned above, McGrath’s statement today that Donohoe had not held a single meeting with the industry in relation to the crisis since coming into office was based on the details provided to him in his parliamentary question. 

McGrath issued a press release on the issue on 17 December 2019 stating that “it is nothing short of extraordinary” that Donohoe had not met with the main insurance companies about the rising costs of insurance. 

The minister’s diary log shows no meetings with insurance companies from 1 January 2019 to 31 October 2019. The department has not yet uploaded the diaries for November and December. 

TheJournal.ie contacted the spokesperson for Minister Donohoe asking if and when the minister had met with the insurance companies. 

They said: “Minister Donohoe met with CEOs of the main insurance companies in recent weeks. They are Allianz, FBD, Liberty Insurance, AXA, Zurich, Aviva and AIG.”

When asked to clarify when exactly the meetings took place with the minister, they said the week of 6 January – all in the past 10 days.

AXA confirmed to TheJournal.ie that the meeting on 6 January occurred.

The Verdict

McGrath claimed today that Minister Donohoe had not met the insurance industry or any individual insurance company in the midst of a worsening insurance crisis.

He based this statement on the details provided to him by the Department of Finance and the minister at the end of November 2019.

He subsequently issued a press release on the matter making the same claim – all of which were accurate at the time and as of 10 days ago.

While the minister did not meet with any insurance companies last year, during what is being classed by the opposition as being “in the midst of a worsening insurance crisis”, Donohoe did meet with a number of the insurance companies last week. 

Therefore, our verdict is: MIXED

As per our verdict guide, this means: There are elements of truth in the claim, but also elements of falsehood. Or, the best available evidence is evenly weighted in support of, and against, the claim.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.  

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