Sunday 25 September 2016

Insurers given a week to report on refusal to cover flood-risk buildings

Kevin Doyle and Charlie Weston

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

The coffin of Paddy Healy is transported by boat to Saints Island Graveyard, Co Longford, following his funeral in Newtowncashel.
The road to the graveyard has been cut off due to recent flooding. Photo: James Flynn/APX
The coffin of Paddy Healy is transported by boat to Saints Island Graveyard, Co Longford, following his funeral in Newtowncashel. The road to the graveyard has been cut off due to recent flooding. Photo: James Flynn/APX

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has given insurance companies one week to come back with a report on why they are refusing to insure some homes even after flood defences have been put in place.

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Insurance industry bosses have been told by the Government to come up with proof that removable flood barriers installed with State funding have been ineffective.

A meeting between Mr Kenny and six of the main insurers focused on the use of temporary flood walls, known as "demountables".

These types of defences require some human input ahead of rivers bursting their banks and are used in Mallow, Clonmel, Fermoy and along the River Dodder in Dublin.

A source who was at the meeting said insurance companies cited these types of defences as a key reason why homes were not being insured, claiming they did not work. However, government representatives argued they were widely used across Europe and were at a standard that is considered safe by the EU.

"Essentially, demountables are permanent flood defences but they are not left up permanently," said a source.

"They can involve things like a wall across a main road so it wouldn't be practical to leave them up all the time, but they do meet EU standards."

The meeting heard insurers admit only 67pc of homes and businesses have access to insurance where demountable flood defences are in operation.

Where there are permanent flood defence works in place, 86pc of property owners get cover, Insurance Ireland and the bosses of the six largest insurers told the Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny asked the insurance companies to review their policy surrounding temporary flood defences and to report back within one week.

"He told them to look at other countries. Ministers made the point that they want to do this in conjunction with the insurers," said a source.

It is understood there was only passing reference made to putting a new levy on policies to fund defences and provide compensation.

Tanaiste Joan Burton said the prospect of slapping a new levy on the insurance companies was still an option available to the Government.

But she warned against any move that would result in a "general rise in everyone's insurance premiums".

The insurance industry has criticised planning decisions and is strongly opposed to the introduction of a levy on policyholders.

Kevin Thompson, the chief executive of Insurance Ireland - the industry lobby group - confirmed the Taoiseach had asked the insurance companies to consider the issue of demountable or temporary flood defences and report back next week.

The meeting was attended by the bosses of Aviva, Allianz, FBD, AIG, Zurich and RSA. Also there were Tanaiste Joan Burton, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

Meanwhile, ESB Networks has advised all electricity customers to be extra-vigilant as the current levels of flooding begin to recede.

The combination of water and electricity is dangerous and extreme care is required for safety, it said.

Irish Independent

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