Tuesday 24 April 2018

Flood-hit businesses demand levy to allow all traders full access to flood insurance

Government criticised in Dail for slow and ineffective response for flood victims

Protesters on the streets of Bandon this week
Protesters on the streets of Bandon this week

Ralph Riegel & John Downing

Flood-hit traders have demanded a national insurance levy to allow all businesses, irrespective of their location, full access to flood insurance.

"A lot of our clients have been affected by the flood of last weekend and indeed by the flood of 2009 and beyond," tax consultant Colin Mulhall warned.

With no flood relief programme this will be and is a recurring event."

Colin, managing partner with Lloyd Bowmaker in Bandon, said simple measures can be taken to help flood-ravaged traders nationwide.

"Insurance companies should consider the implementation of a minimalist levy similar to what was charged when PMPA went out of business to ensure that businesses that are prone to flooding can get insurance cover," he said.

Read more: Dramatic aerial footage shows 'unstoppable' floods as Met Eireann issues new weather warning

Colin said the scheme would offer protection for vulnerable traders - and allow the Government to avoid the nightmare scenario of businesses being forced to close because of flood losses while not insured.

"Businesses that cannot get flood insurance could get the relevant cover with the levy being shared across the whole of the insured spectrum throughout the country of Ireland."

"This would give huge peace of mind to traders that otherwise have to payout to set up their business from scratch each time a town or city floods."

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader, Michéal Martin, told the Dail today that Britain already has a state-insurance scheme for those hit more than once with floods and cannot get insurance from regular firms.

Amid angry Dáil scenes, the Fianna Fáil leader was joined by Sinn Féin in arguing that the Government response was too slow and ineffective.

But the Taoiseach hit back accusing the Opposition of trying to take political advantage from those suffering flood damage.

“You’re playing politics with this now – a red card for that,” the Taoiseach said.

Mr Kenny said the Government will consider a state flood insurance scheme - but he said he doubted whether the British scheme was a major success.

The Fianna Fáil leader said many parts of the country suffered flooding four times since 2009 and many homes and businesses could not flood insurance.

Read more: 'I feel like I'm in a bad dream and hopefully I will wake up tomorrow' - widow of man swept away by flood water

Mr Martin said the British Government had gone ahead and dealt with this via a state scheme.

“All you can say now is that ‘you will look at it,’” Mr Martin said angrily.

The Taoiseach said the community had given a magnificient response to neighbours stricken by floods. The local authorities were joined by OPW, army and civil defence to give the best possible response.

Mr Kenny said some €10bn was earmarked for flood defence projects at 300 locations countrywide.

In response to Mr Martin the Taoiseach said Junior Minister, Simon Harris, responsible for the flood response, will visit flood victims in Bandon, Co Cork, next week and involve the Red Cross in compensation discussions for local business. 

Pádraig MacLochlainn of Sinn Féin said the Opposition were not “playing politics,” arguing that many government TDs were equally concerned about the resposnse. The Donegal TD said some people in that county had been flooded twice in recent weeks alone.

The Sinn Féin TD said that the Government should urgently consider a state insurance scheme.  Mr Kenny said the Office of Public Works regularly meets with the insurance companies to discuss risk and the impact of flood defences already completed.

Cork-based tax consultant Mulhall warned that many of his clients in the flood-hit town of Bandon in west Cork now face a grim battle to survive such was the damage inflicted last weekend by Storm Desmond.

The Bandon businessmen said the plight facing many traders, on the eve of their busiest trading season of the year, is absolutely tragic.

 Mr Mulhall said the plight facing some Bandon traders is now absolutely tragic.

 Many are having to replace expensive fittings only installed after the disastrous 2009 flood.

 "One client took a stock loan out in October and the loan must be repaid by March 2016 but the stock got totally destroyed last weekend. Their business and their lives are now at an all time low."

Read more: Major transport delays as nation braces itself for further floods in aftermath of Storm Desmond

 "Both the Government and the insurance industry must be more responsible in the way they deal with this disaster and with similar flood-prone towns across the island of Ireland."

 "It's not good enough for councillors and politicians to visit Bandon and other towns affected for photo opportunities. Something must be done."

 Mr Mulhall said that flood relief schemes have been shown to work in Kanturk, Fermoy, Mallow and Clonmel - but Bandon traders need support while the town's long-delayed scheme is progressed.

 "According to local engineers the Government do not have to spend millions on reports. They need to ensure that planners don't allow building to be done on flood planes."

 "Up river they need to compulsory purchase land and to divert the water during the dangerous high tide that poses a risk of flooding in the town and to divert the river into fields that are prepared by digging out the top soil and the sub soil and to flood these areas. When the flood has subsided they can let the water back into the river."

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