Existing laws make helping flood-hit businesses ‘difficult’
Government will examine ways to aid those impacted by Storm Desmond, says Coveney
Flooding in Bandon, Co Cork. Simon Coveney: “We’re looking to see if there is some way in which we can help towns like Bandon because this is the second flood they have had in six years.” Photograph: Denis Boyle
The Government is to examine ways of providing support for business people who have suffered huge losses in the flooding as a result of Storm Desmond but existing legislation may make it difficult, according to Minster for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.
Mr Coveney said that he had spoken to both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin about what it is legally possible for the Government to do in terms of providing compensation to business people in towns such as Bandon and Crossmolina.
“It is not straightforward because in terms of the legislation that is connected to flood relief compensation or humanitarian payments or so on – it specifically talks about supporting households and not businesses,” said Mr Coveney.
“We are looking at ways in which we can support businesses. We have had this before in terms of some businesses in Cork city and in Blackpool and Douglas and we were not able to get them money in the end. That was a source of huge frustration for me I can tell you.”
“We’re looking to see if there is some way in which we can help towns like Bandon because this is the second flood they have had in six years. The last time most of the businesses did have flood insurance. They cannot get flood insurance now even if they are willing to pay.”
“There are other towns in Ireland badly damaged . . . there is Crossmolina in Mayo. What is happening today is that all of the local authorities were asked to have their full assessments in of the level of flood damage in their areas.”
Mr Coveney said that there had been a meeting of emergency response teams on Monday morning chaired by the Department of the Environment and there would be a clear picture of the extent of the damage across the country available to the Cabinet before it meets on Tuesday.
In his role as Minister for Defence, he has already had discussions with the Irish Red Cross as the department provides about €800,000 annually to the charity for humanitarian relief but he stressed that that money goes to households not businesses.
Mr Coveney said the Government was acutely aware of “the nightmare scenario” businesses that have not got insurance are facing just three weeks from Christmas and would do everything it could to prevent them from going out of business.
“Getting hit like this so close to Christmas is hugely damaging. We want to help them get on their feet quickly so we are looking at ways we can help them quickly. At the same time, we have to do that within the law. For businesses that need help, it is not straightforward.
“Historically, businesses have not been assisted with these monies because you don’t want to do anything that would incentivise businesses not to get flood insurance if it is available. Risk just gets transferred to the State and insurance companies just cherry-pick.
“We want to put an onus on the private insurance industry,” said Mr Coveney, adding that in towns where flood relief work has been carried out such as Mallow, Fermoy and Clonmel, the risk of flooding has been reduced dramatically and flood insurance has becomes available.