Insurance costs compel Wicklow adventure centre to close

Shutdown of Squirrel’s Scramble resource due to three-fold increase ‘soul destroying’

In 2020 liability insurance for Squirrel’s Scramble was €26,000. The latest quote is €88,000

In 2020 liability insurance for Squirrel’s Scramble was €26,000. The latest quote is €88,000

 

Closure of a popular Co Wicklow adventure centre has been characterised by the operator as as “soul destroying”.

Squirrel’s Scramble had been running high ropes and zip line courses on the grounds of Killruddery House since 2014 and the decision to close has been blamed on a more than three-fold increase in their insurance premium.

Last year liability insurance for Squirrel’s Scramble was €26,000.

But marketing director Anthea Langsaid their insurers have since left the Irish market and the lowest quote they can get for this year is €88,000.

She and her husband, Chris, ran the park together.

“This is our baby, it’s like a fourth child. Our blood, sweat and tears went into it. It’s like a bereavement.”

‘Kids get so empowered from doing these challenges . . . the place was so full of laughter; it’s so empty now.’
‘Kids get so empowered from doing these challenges . . . the place was so full of laughter; it’s so empty now.’

The park’s last day in operation was Saturday.

“Kids get so empowered from doing these challenges . . . the place was so full of laughter; it’s so empty now.” This is “soul destroying,” she said.

Ms Lang said Squirrel’s Scramble had never had a claim in relation to any of the activities, but they have had claims in relation to people falling while walking on the grounds.

Ms Lang said the responsibility for safety needs to lie with the individual. “This type of thing happens in forests too, but you can’t sue the trees.”

Hopes to reopen

She believes urgent reform is needed, otherwise more businesses will close.

Squirrel’s Scramble is hopeful that they can reopen in April, if the cost of insurance reduces.

Peter Boland, director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform, said while there has been change in relation to insurance, premiums are not coming down quickly enough.

New judicial guidelines, which were introduced in April, have resulted in a reduction in compensation payments for minor injuries, according to Mr Boland.

Secondary changes, such as making prosecution for perjury easier and the establishment of an insurance fraud unit within the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, will also help.

However, these reforms have not yet brought down the cost of insurance, especially liability insurance, according to Mr Boland.

“There have been individual cases where the cost of premiums have gone up significantly, despite all the reforms. There are many sectors which can’t get cover, or the cost of cover is unsustainable.”

There is still not enough competition in the Irish insurance market, which the Government needs to resolve, added Mr Boland.

Insurance Ireland said that liability insurance remains challenging due to the “volatility and unpredictability” of the personal injuries claims environment. It added that they support the new personal injuries guidelines and are starting to see some positive effects in latest data from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. They are also hopeful that similar data will emerge from the courts system.