Insurers must do more for flood victims, Kenny says

Taoiseach issues statement as 230 Irish homes remain under threat of flooding

Conor Pope reports from Golden Island, a small rural community near Athlone which has been isolated by the floods and is struggling to survive in appalling conditions. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Major insurance companies are making “sizeable” profits in Ireland and must do more for those who have been flooded or face a high risk of being affected, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Relations between the Government and the insurance industry are strained after Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly claimed firms were refusing cover in areas where flood defences have been built.

Some 260 homes have recently been flooded and 230 others are under threat, according to the latest estimates from the Department of the Environment.

The insurance industry’s representative group criticised the handling of planning throughout Ireland for decades and said successive governments had permitted building on flood plains and then failed to adequately invest in flood defences.

“Where fixed flood defences have been put in place you’ve got very high rates of coverage,” said Michael Horan of Insurance Ireland. He said the most recent flooding had occurred in unprotected areas.

Weather warning

A Met Éireann weather warning was in place overnight with some 15-25mm of rain forecast to fall.

The National Co-ordination Group overseeing the response to the severe weather said this rainfall could cause flash flooding in northeastern counties.

The group’s chairman John Barry said the weather was expected to turn cool and dry for the next five or six days, during which time river levels would fall.

“We are beginning to see encouraging signs,” he said. “But we feel we are not out of the woods yet.”

Brendan McGrath of the City and County Managers’ Association said flood relief works were continuing across the country and would for some time, but there has been a “relative stabilisation” in the past couple of days.

Promising a “frank” debate with industry executives when he meets them next week, Mr Kenny said they would have to explain the contradictions between their claims that they are insuring properties and customers’ declarations otherwise.

Property tax

Meanwhile, the Revenue Commissioners will allow flooded home owners to defer their property tax bills for this year, and perhaps longer – but they will face a 4 per cent interest charge if they do so.

Outstanding bills will have to be paid before the property is sold or transferred.

Business owners who are getting help from the Irish Red Cross emergency fund will be given extra time needed to file tax returns, Revenue added.

Aviva Insurance Ireland said it has provided cover for properties located in areas where permanent flood defences have been built, citing examples in Mallow and Kilkenny.

It has concerns about areas protected by temporary flood defences and whether these will last.

Speaking in Amsterdam last night, Mr Kenny said: “We need to have a very frank discussion with the insurance companies who make very sizeable profits from Ireland about what this situation is and how it can be addressed.”

Saying he did not expect immediate solutions from them, Mr Kenny continued: “I hope we can do that in a clear fashion or at least commence it on Tuesday, or explain what the nature of the problem is.”