AN independent investigation into how the insurance industry has treated victims of last November’s floods crisis must take place to ensure those affected are not left unprotected this winter.
Speaking after a long-awaited Oireachtas report recommended a second inquiry into the exact reasons behind the national emergency, St Vincent de Paul said it is equally important to examine how insurance firms have failed to protect victims.
The group’s Cork president, Brendan Dempsey, said that, despite an increased focus on the issue, the lack of financial support for hundreds of victims is still failing to be addressed.
Mr Dempsey said he is aware of “hundreds” of people whose house insurance cover has not been renewed or have seen their premiums increase by up to 300%.
In addition, he said the vast majority of flood victims have received just a small percentage of the claims they made to insurance firms after the floods.
And as a result, the senior St Vincent de Paul representative has called for an independent investigation to highlight the ongoing damage being caused by the insurance industry’s actions.
“There needs to be a full inquiry into what those companies are doing because, as far as I’m concerned, they are running a protection racket in the way they’re acting,” Mr Dempsey said. “There are hundreds of people in need of support who are in debt and now have no insurance cover. These people have done nothing wrong so why are they being cut off from help.”
Since the crisis last November, a total of 1,800 flood damage insurance claims have been made in Cork, including 1,150 from private citizens and 650 from the commercial sector.
However, while the vast majority of these claims have not been paid out in full, the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) has said it is not responsible for delays in resolving applications.
The St Vincent de Paul call was made as flood victims across the country continue to face difficulties in accessing a €10 million emergency financial support payments system set up by Government to help the recovery effort.
Flood groups in Cork, Clare and Galway have warned that the criteria used to clarify who qualifies for the aid is too strict and is effectively blocking those in need from accessing support. A significant number of flood victims — many of whom are still living in short-term rented accommodation — received an initial €3,000 payment to cover emergency costs in early January, but have since being told they do not qualify for “humanitarian” aid.
As a result, they have been left with no option other than to take out large loans with banks and credit unions in order to cover their rebuilding costs.
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