Insurers will not agree to a new scheme to assist those impacted by flooding until the Government gets significant flood defences built.
Insurance Ireland, the representative body for insurers, says it isthe Government’s job to build defences and that recent flooding was a result of inadequate investment in flood prevention.
There is expected to be disagreement when the Taoiseach meets members of the insurance industry on Tuesday, with Enda Kenny insisting that “frank discussions” will be had.
A spokeswoman for Mr Kenny yesterday said the Government would be demanding answers on why some homes and businesses are unable to get insurance.
Michael Horan of Insurance Ireland blamed the Government for a lack of flood-prevention measures. He said it would be illogical for insurers to pay out in flood-prone areas.
He said: “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.
“The flood problem has been caused by inadequate investment in flood defences over the years combined with development on flood plains. That has made it more difficult for insurance companies to provide insurance in areas of repeat flooding,” he told RTÉ.
A spokeswoman at the Department of the Taoiseach said: “The Taoiseach and his ministers are acutely aware of the concerns and frustrations of people who cannot secure insurance for their homes and businesses and will meet with representatives of the insurance industry on this and related matters on Tuesday next.
“The Taoiseach will set out the issues raised and seek the industry’s position in these matters.”
Earlier this week, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said insurers have questions to answer on the matter of providing flood insurance.
“In some parts of Ireland flood defences have been put in place but people are telling us they can’t get insurance. We need to get to the bottom of this, we need to get to the truth, and that’s what I — working with the Taoiseach and other ministers — will be doing next week.”
Mr Horan dismissed Mr Kelly’s claims that areas protected by flood defences are still unable to get 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.
Fianna Fáil yesterday published legislation which would require insurance companies to provide cover for flooding in areas where the OPW has completed flood relief schemes or where the risk of flooding is at an acceptably low standard.
Party leader Micheál Martin said: “I asked whether the Government would consider the UK model for insurance for areas prone to flooding. The Taoiseach’s initial response was that there was no problem and that the State would not have involvement in insuring affected areas. Now, with an election looming, it seems he has a new-found interest in the issue and is promising to talk to the industry.”
People have been warned not to take part in “flood tourism” as deep waters and power lines pose a significant threat.
John Barry, chairman of the national co-ordination group, has advised against any unnecessary journeys in boats through flood waters.
“There have been people in boats on inundated land going possibly to take pictures; we hear of photographers making trips of that sort,” he said.
“There is a significant hazard if they are in very deep flood waters and are coming close to power lines, so that’s a concern. We would be worried that people are putting themselves in unnecessary danger and possibly creating a hazard for other people, and a hazard for emergency services.”
With around 500 houses flooded so far and hundreds more marooned, he urged the public to keep an eye out for elderly and vulnerable people who may need help.
Mr Barry said: “We remain concerned about flood waters that lie in many parts of the country; we continue to advise against contact with flood waters; we advise against entering flowing flood waters either on foot or in vehicles. They can be faster and deeper than they appear.”
Separately, Simon Harris, minister with responsibility for the OPW, said he was not “shutting the door” on establishing a new River Shannon authority. “But what I can’t pretend to do is set up some sort of potential quango that would bring lots of different roles and responsibilities and would require significant legislative change overnight.”
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