Monday 23 September 2019

Insurance cover crisis threatens survival of 200 festivals

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Colm Croffy: First-aid regulations are also changing
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Up to 200 festivals around the country are now under threat due to the insurance crisis.

It comes as a world-famous angling festival in the west of Ireland has been forced to cancel its summer event due to surging insurance premiums.

It is the first time in 65 years the Ballina Salmon Festival has had to cancel.

The festival was due to take place in July, but in a statement its directors said it would not be possible to hold this year's event.

"The festival has experienced a difficult period since the end of the 2018 festival. This, coupled with increased insurance and general festival costs have resulted in the decision that the 2019 festival will not go ahead," they said.

Other festivals are now also threatened by a combination of surging insurance premiums and regulatory changes making it more expensive to have first-aiders on standby.

Executive director of the Association of Irish Festivals and Events (Aoife) Colm Croffy said as many as 200 festivals may be forced to cancel this summer and autumn.

Up to now, festivals have relied on Civil Defence members to provide first-aid in the event of an accident.

But health regulators are currently reviewing its certification of Civil Defence members as first-aiders, Mr Croffy explained.

He said regulators may not renew approval of certain Civil Defence emergency medical operations after July 31 this year.

"Festivals are already stretched to breaking point by rocketing insurance costs and this is the thing that will push them over the edge," he said.

"Most festival insurers will price on the basis that emergency first-aiders like Civil Defence are in attendance."

He said that if Civil Defence personnel are not approved, the organisers will have to pay for professional paramedical teams to ensure that they can get insurance.

"Many cannot afford to do so, and if they can't get insurance, the event won't go ahead under current regulations," he said, adding that the dispute will have an immediate impact on the autumn and winter festival schedule.

"We call on the Department of Defence and the HSE to resolve the matter straight away so our festivals can plan ahead without fear of closure."

He said the Ballina Salmon Festival was not affected by the Civil Defence certification issue, but was hit by a sharp rise in its insurance premium.

Mr Croffy said festivals were being hit with double-digit premium hikes for the last three years now.

Despite providing grants to committees running festivals, local authorities were now demanding event organisers provide up to €9.6m in indemnity from their insurers.

Aoife is a member of the Alliance for Insurance Reform. Alliance director Peter Boland called on the Government to address the insurance crisis.

"For over two years now we have had a roadmap of necessary reforms in place.

"Yet inexplicable delays in the establishment of the Garda Insurance Fraud Unit and the enactment of the Judicial Council Bill mean that we are no closer to solving this problem than we were in January 2017," he said.

The HSE referred queries to the Department of Health's regulator for emergency care.

The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council had not responded to a request for a comment by the time of going to press.

In the past two weeks, 1,000 jobs were saved when play centres secured insurance cover. Some 61 play centres were threatened with closure over insurance costs.

Meath businesswoman Linda Murray managed to keep her play centre in Navan open by securing insurance for her firm, and 60 similar facilities across the country.

Irish Independent

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