Saturday 24 February 2018

State-backed insurance for flood victims to be examined

Martin urges copy of the British system

Micheál Martin: response of the Government 'ineffective'
Micheál Martin: response of the Government 'ineffective'

John Downing and Ralph Riegel

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been challenged to provide a not-for-profit state-insurance scheme for victims of flooding.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Britain already had such a scheme for those hit more than once with floods and who could not get insurance from regular firms.

Amid angry Dáil scenes, Mr Martin was joined by Sinn Féin in arguing that the Government's 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 Kenny replied.

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

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

"All you can say now is that you will look at it," Mr Martin said angrily.

The Taoiseach said the community had given a magnificent response to neighbours stricken by floods. The local authorities had been joined by the Office of Public Works, the 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, who is responsible for the flood response, would visit flood victims in Bandon, Co Cork next week and involve the Red Cross in compensation discussions for local business.

Sinn Féin's Pádraig MacLochlainn said the opposition were not "playing politics" and argued that many government TDs were equally concerned about the response. The Donegal TD said some people in that county had been flooded twice in recent weeks alone.

He said the Government should urgently consider a state insurance scheme.

Mr Kenny said the OPW regularly meets with the insurance companies to discuss risk and the impact of flood defences already completed.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney vowed the Defence Forces would offer "whatever support is necessary" to help the emergency services.

Mr Coveney said the flooding was being monitored "on an hourly basis" and whatever resources were required to help flood-hit communities would be immediately provided.

"I can understand how people are upset and angry. This is a devastating situation to face so close to Christmas," he said.

"But the Government and State agencies will do everything possible to support and help people and communities."

The minister said the Government was committed to fast-tracking flood aid for both householders and small business owners hit by the aftermath of Storm Desmond.

Negotiations with the Irish Red Cross over the structure and operation of aid packages were now at an advanced stage.

Mr Coveney said the Government had committed to spending a record amount (€430m) on flood defences by 2021.

"Of course we take the situation very seriously. Everything that can be done to help people will be done."

He stressed that the Government and relevant agencies were carefully monitoring rainfall and tides over the coming days to assess the risk.

Mr Coveney added that troops had either been deployed or were on standby in Galway, Limerick, Westmeath, Cork, Donegal to assist with flood duties.

Irish Independent

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