Rural dwellers ‘at the mercy of insurance firms’

Rural dwellers living in areas that have never been flooded are being blacklisted by insurance companies, even if they have never or rarely made a claim.

Rural dwellers  ‘at the mercy of insurance firms’

Some insurance companies are placing such a premium on policies as to render homes or businesses uninsurable, according to the Irish Rural Dwellers Association.

IRDA chairman James Doyle told the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment yesterday that people were “at the mercy of insurance companies” and had no redress when either refused cover or faced with uneconomic premiums.

“Extreme weather events seem to be on the increase and can cause extensive damage to home and businesses,” Mr Doyle said.

“People find themselves in a vulnerable position, unable to get insurance, thus challenging government to come up with a solution to help those who have suffered major loss as a result of property damage.”

Mr Doyle called for a study to investigate the extent of the problem. Citing flooding along the Shannon basin, he said: “Special help must be given to those who suffered loss without insurance protection.”

Mr Doyle balked at the notion of imposing yet another insurance premium on taxpayers. “It would take a brave man to suggest putting another levy on someone else’s insurance,” he said.

He told committee chairman and Labour TD for Cork South-West Michael McCarthy that some people were “at the mercy of insurance companies” and had no redress when either refused cover or faced with huge premiums.

He also suggested that one of the legacies of the Celtic Tiger was the building that took place on flood plains which led to flooding of areas previously considered immune from flooding.

Mr Doyle acknowledged the work undertaken by councils, and said their responses to date were “reasonably good”, given their limited resources.

Referring to recent fires in Kerry, Mr Doyle said part of the problem was associated with the over-grazing of sheep caused by compulsory removal of sheep from high ground which resulted in heather and other vegetation growing to over 12ft that, when combusted, caused forest fires.

Brian Stanley, Sinn Féin TD for Laois-Offaly, said the issue should be debated in the Dáil, while Paudie Coffey, Fine Gael TD for Waterford, said the banks along the rivers Suir and Clodagh were under “severe pressure”.

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