The Tánaiste has been accused of trying to “wriggle out” of helping businesses against insurers.
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said the Government should be backing small firms against insurance companies which are refusing to cover Covid-19 business disruption claims.
He called on Leo Varadkar to support his call for the Central Bank to intervene and review business disruption insurance.
Last week the High Court ruled that four publicans were entitled to compensation from FBD Insurance for disruption to their businesses due to the pandemic.
Mr Doherty said many other insurers were trying to get out of paying valid claims for business disruption insurance, adding: “It needs to stop.
“There’s two options here: either the Central Bank intervene, as I’ve been calling for as far back as March, or there is going to be a wave of litigation at a cost that is too much for many small businesses.
“Business interruption risks becoming the tracker mortgage scandal of the insurance industry.”
Mr Varadkar said the Central Bank as an independent regulator does not take direction from the Government.
“You’ve called on the Government to intervene to direct the Central Bank to do something,” he said.
“You don’t say those kinds of things because you’re stupid, you’re not a stupid man. You say those things because you hope other people are stupid, and you believe that they may think that the Government has the power of intervention – it doesn’t.
“The Central Bank is independent.
“Any calls that you make to Government to somehow intervene or direct the Central Bank to do something is totally disingenuous, and it’s an attempt by you to mislead people in small business to pretend that you’re on their side.”
The Tánaiste also told the Dáil that the Central Bank was aware of the issue but would have to make a determination itself.
Mr Doherty described Mr Varadkar’s response as “shocking”.
SHOCKING – Leo Varadkar refuses to back @PearseDoherty's call for the Central Bank to act against insurance companies who are refusing to cover Covid claims by small businesses despite a High Court ruling last week. #Dáil pic.twitter.com/PvhVPwNk5HAdvertisement
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) February 11, 2021
The Donegal TD added that he had met the Central Bank privately.
“I’ve provided them documentation in relation to how insurance companies are wriggling out of policies, they’ve asked for that documentation, there is nothing preventing us as members of the Oireachtas, or indeed you as minister, from sharing the same type of information and supporting my request,” Mr Doherty said.
“The Central Bank will make their own decision but don’t you wriggle out of the situation.
“The reality is, and you led the Government last year, you washed your hands of it. You did nothing. Absolutely nothing.”