The claim has been made by Deputy Seán Sherlock, who told the new minister in charge of OPW flood projects that the Government needs to take a tougher line with the insurance industry, especially as in many cases it continues to deny flood cover in areas where expensive flood alleviation schemes have been undertaken.
Mr Sherlock made the comments at a meeting of the Oireachtas committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.
He told newly-installed OPW minister Seán Canney that insurance companies are also dragging their heels over providing cover for householders and business owners in towns which have had successful flood alleviation projects carried out.
“The flood alleviation works that were carried out in Fermoy and Mallow are keynote OPW projects that have delivered significant benefits,” Mr Sherlock said.
Many business owners have informed the Irish Examiner that they still can’t access flood insurance in both these towns.
On the night of December 29/30 last excessive rainfall caused the River Blackwater to flood in many places. Many elderly people said it was the highest they’d seen the river. Yet when the flood defences were activated they protected both towns which would have previously been swamped.
Mr Sherlock said there is clear evidence that the presence of demountable walls alleviates flooding: “There is proof that demountable walls work because they have stopped towns from being flooded. That should, from an actuarial point of view, have the knock-on effect of driving down insurance premiums.
“We need to be more vociferous and stronger when sending a message to the insurance companies about such issues. In my opinion insurance companies are using the excuse that there is a lack of evidence to support demountable works, or that there is some actuarial analysis or mitigating risk factor associated with demountable walls.”
Minister Canney said he has not yet met the insurance industry himself to discuss these issues.
“The situation is that insurance companies refuse to insure people, but there are options open to the Minister for Finance, including saying companies must insure people, but then one would not have any control over the premium or policy excess,” he said.
“There is no point in saying to someone that he or she will get insurance for his or her home, but it will cost €10,000 a year. We must be realistic. We can say to the insurance industry that we want it to insure people, but the difficulty under law is that we cannot set the premium. The Department of Finance is looking at other options and they will be brought before the all-party committee,” Mr Canney said.
He said flooding issues in areas outside of rural towns are addressed through minor works that can be carried out by local authorities with funding provided by the OPW.