Centre's great year marred by insurance costs

Ballybunion leisure centre records best year ever but insurance costs skyrocket by a third in 12 months

Dónal Nolan

Ballybunion Health and Leisure Centre recorded its best summer season yet amid bustling crowds in the resort in what was a largely poor summer weather wise.

But all gains could be undone overnight if insurance costs at the centre rise any more. They've already risen by a third this year alone. And the centre has witnessed a fivefold increase in insurance over the 12 years it has been operating.

Ever increasing litigiousness and the seemingly automatic awarding of damages to claimants in this country are cited as key factors beind the surge in costs. This year Ballybunion Health and Leisure Centre was left with no choice but to accept the swingeing premium rise simply to secure cover at all.  When it opened 12 years ago, it cost €5,000 to secure insurance. That figure rose to €30,000 this year. "Our energy costs have been under control since we switched from oil to gas; our staffing costs are under control. And this has been our best season ever, but the one cloud on the horizon for us remains the cost of  insurance," Leisure Centre manager Pádraig Hanrahan told The Kerryman.  "It's an issue that is crucifying the leisure industry in Ireland, with a pool in Newbridge closing last week because it could not obtain insurance."

Unlike home owners and motorists, leisure centres have recourse to insurance companies outside of Ireland. Last year, Ballybunion Health and Leisure Centre were covered by a UK firm. "But we had to find someone new as they would no longer insure us. It's not down to price, but to finding a company willing to provide cover now," Mr Hanrahan said. However, the leisure industry in Ireland is about the least attractive customer for insurers. "If your trade is overly dependant on underage users you're effectively black marked by the insurance companies; and that's particularly the case in Ireland where the awards to minors are extremely high." Mr Hanrahan was also critical of the way we have come to apparently change the entire nature of insurance in Ireland. "It should be strictly for negligence. But it seems now that if someone slips or what have you it is not their fault, and they expect to get paid out under our legal system."

"While we were lucky to get insurance and can absorb the cost at present if it rises any higher or we have a bad year it could be a much different story." Even with the massive insurance cost it has to bear the Centre is enjoying its best year yet - focused on getting customers and memberships in for September to make good on the bumper 2019.