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Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019
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Opinion: 'Insurance - short of wrapping our business in bubble wrap, there's nothing we can do to make it safer'

Niall Roche writes about why he wants business owners affected by insurance costs to join together.

Niall Roche

INSURANCE: IT’S A funny concept.

Businesses pay thousands of euro a year to protect themselves against something that might but often never happens. It’s a necessary evil – you can’t operate a business without it.

This very concept has led to a crisis in the leisure industry. Every other day we are hearing about adventure centres, play centres and even bowling alleys being forced to close due to the rising cost of insurance premiums.

At Go Wild Wicklow, we were forced to close our gates back in January when we couldn’t avail of a reasonable insurance quote, despite being claim-free for the years we were in operation.

We offered activities such as archery, zip lining, and laser combat. Ironically, to secure insurance we have to have our equipment tested and up to a certain standard. Our zip lines and all activities are supervised by qualified instructors, and the equipment is all top of the range in terms of safety.

Short of wrapping ourselves, our clients and our land in bubble wrap, there is literally nothing more we can do to make our activities safer. 

While Go Wild Wicklow was in operation, our ‘adopted charity’ was Dublin Chernobyl Children International (CCI). CCI does tremendous work raising funds to bring children and young adults from the Vesnova Institute to Ireland for their annual rest and recuperation visit.

Aside from running their annual fundraising challenge, Go Wild Wicklow would also host a day out for the children in the adventure centre. For one special day, they could experience zip lining, archery, laser combat and more.

These children would return to Vesnova with their memories and each year when the coaches would arrive with the new visitors, they would already know what to expect as they had heard the stories from their friends. The excitement was always palpable.

Sadly, as a result of the insurance industry’s high premiums, this special day, for a very special set of young people, will never happen again. It’s a day we all looked forward to: a humbling day, a day where we all were touched by love and happiness.

Knock-on effect

The knock-on effect here is that as a nation we are in the middle of an obesity crisis, yet kids are told not to run in the yard for fear they will fall and their parents will sue.

We have already seen Fort Lucan Adventureland in Dublin having to remove trampolines from its park because it can’t afford the insurance – we are talking about supervised activities here, where risk is at a minimum.

We are constantly told to get our kids off the devices and outside playing. But where can we bring them to play with the insurance situation forcing us to close activity and adventure centres?

At Go Wild Wicklow we specialised in kids’ parties. We would kit them out in military gear, load them into our army jeeps and take them into the woods for a few rounds of laser combat. The kids would run and hide and take the games so seriously but again, due to insurance we can’t do this anymore.

The insurance industry will tell you that the reason the premiums are so high is because of the rise in frivolous injury claims. But again – speaking only for Go Wild Wicklow – we never had a single claim against us. Anecdotal evidence we have heard would suggest that many of the centres being forced to close are in the same boat. 

To combat the obesity crisis we need centres like Go Wild Wicklow to be in operation. We absolutely need Fort Lucan to have its trampolines open and we need somewhere to bring our kids where they can run and hide and be active.

I want to call on owners and operators of adventure centres, play centres and leisure parks to get together, to join our voices and be heard by the insurance industry.

I want to stop our multiple voices being lost in the din and bring them together as one voice that can and will be heard. To create meaningful dialogue and hopefully get our gates open, and bring those kids from Vesnova back into doing outdoor activities and putting smiles on their faces. If you want to join me, please get in touch and let’s do something to make change happen: niall.roche84@gmail.com

Niall works for a Go Wild Wicklow.

Also on this topic: Noteworthy investigates the myths of Ireland’s ‘compo culture‘.

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Niall Roche

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