Minister challenges insurers to deliver on flood commitments

Simon Coveney says comments by industry confusing two separate issues

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has challenged insurance companies to deliver on their commitment to provide cover for areas with flood relief schemes in place ahead of meeting between the government and the industry on Tuesday.

Mr Coveney said recent comments by the insurance industry were confusing two separate issues – providing flood insurance cover where flood relief schemes have been put in place, and addressing the issue of areas that are still awaiting flood relief works.

Last week, speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Michael Horan of Insurance Ireland rejected suggestions that insurers were not doing enough to help those affected by flooding on foot of storms Desmond, Eva and Frank in December.

“The flood problem has been caused by inadequate investment in flood defences over the years combined with development on flood plains . . . It is not the job of the insurance industry to build flood defences, it’s the job of the Government,” said Mr Horan.

But Mr Coveney told The Irish Times on Monday that the insurance industry seemed not to be addressing the question that the Government was putting to the sector - namely, what was it going to do for locations that have benefited frombeing protected by flood relief works.

“The narrative that is coming from the insurance industry and others in the last number of days has been, ‘We are not going to insure unless the State invests in flood protection measures’, but that’s not the question we are asking,” he said.

“The question we are asking and they should be answering is, when the State spends tens of millions of euros on flood defences, as it has done in Fermoy and Mallow and Clonmel, and where flood defences are working, what are they going to do in terms of providing cover?

Open-minded discussion

“I think we need an open-minded discussion with the insurance industry on this and the insurance industry needs to start providing insurance for homes and businesses in these protected areas, rather than trying to find excuses not to.

“We need some frank talking tomorrow – if the insurance federation say they are going to cover when we [the Government] put money in place, then they need to follow through on that commitment and if they do not, then the State is going to have to act.”

The second issue relates to towns where the Government has pledged flood relief works over the next five to 10 years and how it can provide support and reassurance to businesses and homeholders in such towns during the interim period before such schemes are completed.