Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Usually when we talk about insurance in this Chamber, it is in the context of the escalating cost. During questions to the Tánaiste earlier, I said that where the cost of injury claims comes down, the cost of insurance should come down correspondingly, and we had a discussion on that.
This matter, however, is about certain sectors being unable to get any insurance cover. We have seen this creep into the sporting activity sector in recent months, with water sport activities, activity parks and water parks failing to get insurance. One such business in Dromineer, in my county, had to close because of a lack of insurance. Now we have been told ice rinks for the winter period will not get insurance. We see an increasing number of sporting activities failing to get insurance cover, irrespective of the cost.
Now we see this stretching into the equestrian sector. Last weekend, two point-to-point events had to be cancelled because of a lack of insurance. As for the equestrian and hunting sectors, we have 100 packs in this country. We had only one insurance provider in this area but it has now withdrawn. If insurance for hunting packs comes to an end, with different packs at different stages, those hunts will not be able to engage in any activity. Consequently, the organisers of point-to-point events, which operate under the same umbrella, will not be able to operate either. Aside from the recreational aspect of these sports, they are hugely important businesses. They are the cornerstone of our national hunt industry and extremely important financially and to rural Ireland.
We have had the disruption of Covid, which put national hunt breeding under extreme pressure, and we had point-to-point racing cancelled for a number of months. Thankfully, we got the latter resumed, but a second winter of disruption to our activities would be extremely damaging economically. I am talking about the shop window where our young horses are shown and able to be sold, whether to buyers here at home or to the UK or further afield. A second winter of disruption would impact on the sales of younger horses all through the year. It is imperative therefore that the Government comes up with a solution to this crisis - and a crisis it is. As I said, we have often been in this Chamber arguing about the cost of insurance, but this is a completely different aspect of various sectors of sporting activity being unable to activate insurance at any price.
A substantial claim was awarded on the hunting fields in recent months, and that is the reason being put forward for the insurer leaving the market. That accident happened in my county. The rider involved was severely injured and I understand a substantial payout was received. This is a man with a young family and he will have a lot of costs for the rest of his life. We cannot, however, have a situation in which vital sectors, whether a business involving water activities or any other recreational activity, will be left without insurance cover. As I said, the equestrian industry is massively important to all parts of the country. We just have to come up with a solution to this. We cannot just have insurance companies cherry-picking what they will insure. I am not talking about insurance at any cost because, obviously, no business can afford that. Surely, though, we could have a regulator that would ensure reasonable costs in respect of claims paid out over a number of years and ensure that insurance companies, in order to be allowed to operate in this country, would be forced to give quotes at reasonable costs to all sectors.