Business

Monday 20 May 2019

'My business is facing closure in days' - Play centre owner makes emotional appeal to TDs on insurance crisis

Crisis: Linda Murray with her children Elle (4) and Savannah (3) at her play centre in Navan, Co Meath Photo: Steve Humphreys
Crisis: Linda Murray with her children Elle (4) and Savannah (3) at her play centre in Navan, Co Meath Photo: Steve Humphreys
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

AN emotional appeal was made to politicians to save jobs and businesses sinking due to the insurance crisis.

Soaring insurance premiums and the reluctance of some insurers to even quote businesses for cover because of false and exaggerated claims is having a devastating impact.

Play centre owner Linda Murray’s business is facing closure in days, she told the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

Breaking down in tears, Ms Murray begged the TDs and senators on the committee: “Save our livelihoods, save the livelihoods of our staff, and give our children somewhere to play.”

Her address to the committee had to be paused while she collected herself.

Ms Murray said her play centre in Navan, Co Meath, may shut with the loss of 12 jobs.

Insurers are quoting a premium for the next year of €16,500, a 1,000pc rise in the past five years.

She also heads up a group of 60 play centres, called the Play Activity and Leisure Ireland (PALI).

The members had collectively paid €5m in premiums in the past five years.

Some €1m had to be put aside for claims, with just €200,000 paid out.

“So, €4.8m is sitting there. I can’t get insurance and our group is facing increases of 300pc with others unable to get quotes.”

The businesswoman said there was no transparency around how insurance premiums were calculated.

She said her play centre was now the only one in Navan, a town with a population of 40,000. This is due to the fact that another facility closed in the last six weeks.

“Other play centres are closing. Ours is closing. It is horrific, but we are not unusual. Our members are told they are lucky to get insurance,” she told committee chairman John McGuinness.

Ms Murray revealed that her business is now considering self-insurance, where it puts money aside to pay claims out of its own resources. This is probably the only way she can stay in business, she revealed.

Former chairman of business lobby group Isme James Coghlan claimed insurers were engaged in “price gouging”.

Chief executive of Isme Neil McDonnell said the cost of insurance issue is now hollowing out Irish society.

“It is restricting the conduct of sport, play and charitable activity, it is attracting criminal activity, it is encouraging the advancement of manufactured grievances.

“It is reducing the physical and moral health of citizens. We are getting to the point where suing someone for the most minor of inconveniences is socially acceptable across all educational and class strata.”

Businesses are now closing on a weekly basis due to the insurance crisis, the Alliance for Insurance Reform said.

Alliance director Peter Boland said there was no justification for the premium hikes seen, and there was little transparency on what is going on.

It added that vested interests in the insurance and legal sectors are stalling much-needed reform.

Isme said there was a need for a reduction in the quantum of awards in courts and those paid by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board to be reduced.

It said there is a need for the legal profession to engage honestly with a reform process.

And there must be meaningful action on the detection and punishment of fraudulent claims.

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