The fabric of Irish society is threatened with major change, and not in a good way. The culprit this time is insurance. The insurance crisis has far-reaching and worrying consequences.
Soaring premiums are putting at risk activities as diverse as street festivals, farmers' marts, tidy town efforts, children's play centres and sports events.
In the past two years alone, 75 street festivals have collapsed due to unsustainable rises in public liability insurance costs, says the Association of Irish Festivals and Events. Farmers' marts are threatened with closure due to drastic rises in insurance costs, the Oireachtas Finance Committee was told.
Manager of Donegal Livestock Mart Eimear McGuinness told the committee she was annoyed with the mart's insurer which paid out on what she said was a questionable claim. She said there is a field across from the mart and a man said he had been bitten by a horse in it. The mart does not own or keep animals. Despite this, the insurer paid up when a claim was made against the mart.
Who could blame insurers, given inconsistent court decisions? Last week, a Co Dublin taxi driver - who has made eight personal injury claims in as many years but failed to disclose most of them to insurers - had his latest claim thrown out.
And a former model was told by a judge she was part of a contrived accident which led to claims by herself and three of her sisters-in- law for damages totalling €240,000. Julieanne Joyce (23), whose husband Patrick Joyce is serving a 14-year prison sentence for his part in an aggravated burglary, and her three in-laws were ordered to pay legal costs after their claims were thrown out of court.
It is good to see questionable cases are now being thrown out of court. But this message is still not getting through to the small minority of lawyers waging an economic war against the insured public by representing clients making spurious claims, to say nothing of exaggerated and false claims.
There is seldom a consequence for those taking false claims, while their lawyers never seem to have to answer for their actions. Too many claimants are still gaming the personal injuries process, legal costs are too high, and it takes too long for cases to get to court, adding hugely to the costs.
Society is paying the price for over-generous awards, a lack of determination to go after false claimants, and for lawyers, and insurers who are too eager to settle, rather than fight, questionable claims.