Ash Wednesday claim illustrated absurdity of personal injuries regime

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ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell.

AN “ABSURD” personal injury claim should have been thrown out of a Limerick court, a business representative group has claimed.

Irish small firms association ISME made its comments in a statement released after a story “illustrating how farcically surreal our personal injuries regime has become.”

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Last week, a Limerick schoolboy who received ashes on Ash Wednesday 2016 sued the school after they remained visible on his forehead for longer than the day or so they normally do.

According to a report in the Limerick Leader, the claim was settled for €5,000 by the school and their insurer.

ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell said that “while the practices of putting ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday is strongly associated with the Roman Catholic Church, it is not unique to it. It is also conducted by many Protestant faiths and people of Jewish origin.

“One wonders, therefore, what is going through the minds of the insurers who proposed the settlement. It is highly unlikely that they are unfamiliar with the practice of applying ashes, and the fact that those ashes are intentionally visible for some time afterwards. 

The consensual participation in a religious ceremony in any other country could not result in a tort, without evidence of some pretty serious negligence,” he said.

“While we are unfamiliar with the full facts of this case, it would strain credulity to say that the priest applying the ashes in this Limerick school was negligent in any way.

“What will the parents of Jewish and Muslim boys circumcised in Ireland make of this settlement?

“Theirs is a far more permanent manifestation of religious observance than the day or so display of ashes that earned this boy €5,000.

“No doubt there will be an attempt to blame the insurers or judiciary for this settlement as well, as happened last month.

However, Mr McDonnell said that “the Government refused to entertain a proposal from the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) this year to put a cap on damages.

He said that ISME was now calling on the Government to acknowledge the sense of urgency for businesses and consumers in addressing insurance costs that was recognised by Justice Kearns of the Personal Injuries Commission.

“There is no constitutional impediment to legislating a cap on damages. Minister of State Michael D’Arcy should set about doing so immediately, as his New Year’s resolution” Mr McDonnell concluded.