AS PARTS OF Ireland try to come to terms with the devastation wrought by the recent stormy weather, the body that represents insurers in Ireland has denied suggestions that they are not doing enough to help those affected.
Enda Kenny is due to meet with insurers next week for what he has termed as “frank discussions” regarding the flooding seen across the country, most recently as a result of Storm Frank.
But Insurance Ireland now says that it can only sign up to any new scheme regarding flooding once adequate flood defences have been built in affected areas by the government.
Speaking to RTE the association’s Michael Horan has rejected claims that insurers aren’t doing enough to help those affected.
“The flood problem has been caused by inadequate investment in flood defences over the years combined with development on flood plains,” he said.
That has made it more difficult for insurance companies to provide insurance in areas of repeat flooding.
However, Horan insisted that: “It is not the job of the insurance industry to build flood defences, it’s the job of the government.”
Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland Westmeath Labour TD Willie Penrose says it cannot simply be a question of risk as “to make accidents not happen you would have to not work”.
Areas in and around Athlone in Penrose’s constituency have been among the worst hit by the recent floods.
“Insurance companies want 100% cast-iron guarantees against risk but that is virtually impossible,” said Penrose.
My view is simple. With the stress and trauma of the last five weeks these people have suffered enough.
The Taoiseach and his ministers must call out these companies next week, and put them under pressure to play a role.
It’s a two-way street, we have bailed out insolvent insurers in the past.
Penrose agreed that regardless of the approach taken by insurance companies the Irish government will have to spend “significant funds” on flood defences. He also said that placing a levy on insurance premiums to aid those in distress should be “a last resort”.
“If we start building flood defences tomorrow they won’t be done for five years. But they need to be done sequentially and quickly,” he said.
Regarding the suggestion of a levy being applied to current insurance payments Horan meanwhile said that caution would be necessary with any such suggestion.
“The idea of a levy needs to be thought through, any scheme needs to be sustainable,” he said. “In order to do that, you need adequate flood defences.”
There is no getting away from flood defences no matter how politicians try to dress it up.
In areas of repeat flooding you are talking about inevitable events, and insurance is about the risk of something happening, not about covering inevitable events, because if you did that the cost of premiums would skyrocket.
Horan likewise dismissed claims that many people in areas already protected by flood defences struggle to obtain flood insurance.
“The vast majority of people living in areas protected by flood defences can get flood insurance, 98% of homeowners have flood cover,” he said.
Read: ‘Sensible people are putting their health at risk’ – Patients going to GPs when they need emergency treatment