Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

 

12:32 pm

Photo of Michael LowryMichael Lowry (Tipperary, Independent)

Earlier this year, the Alliance for Insurance Reform made a presentation to the Department of Finance which outlined that as many as 35 sectors were either struggling to get insurance or could not obtain insurance at all. That list continues to grow. Throughout the summer months, numerous businesses offering a myriad of activity to all ages were forced to close. They had either completely failed to get insurance or the cost was such that it made no economic sense for them to continue.

The most recent casualty of the prohibitive cost of insurance is the horse sport sector. While the outside impression of horse sport might not garner the same level of public support as crèches, children's activities and playgrounds, its demise should not be determined by money-grabbing insurance companies. The horse sports sector is a vast industry overall. Horse sport is a major employer in rural Ireland and an intrinsic part of the fabric of Irish life. A 2014 study carried out by University College Dublin, UCD, found that the Irish horse sport industry contributed in excess of €708 million to the economy each year and provided the equivalent of 12,500 full-time jobs. National hunt horses, by definition, emerge from the hunting field. So too do most national hunt jockeys and many showjumpers, event riders and others.

Insurance companies are stating that due to the number of claims being made, no commercial underwriters are willing to renew liability insurance to cover hunts in Ireland. Failure to provide liability insurance for hunts means landowners cannot allow hunting to take place over their land. No access to land means no hunting. Commercial insurance companies have come to the conclusion that liability insurance for risk-taking sports is a no-win game for them. This is because of the way liability claims are handled in the Irish legal system. While hunting is one of the first horse sport pursuits to be affected, it will not be the last. Removing access to riding facilities, be they hunting facilities, riding schools, pony clubs or tracking trails, will inevitably undermine the resources and knowledge base of the equine world in Ireland.

The impact of this development is not linked to the hobby world. In recent weeks, it has resulted in the loss of insurance cover to the hunts that hold point-to-point meetings in Tipperary and across the country. Point-to-point racing is a product of hunting and is organised by the individual hunts. Without the hunts in Ireland, there will be no point-to-point meetings. Without point-to-point racing, there is no national hunt racing. The result will be that a major Irish agricultural industry involving the breeding, training and racing of national hunt horses will effectively disappear. Can the Government facilitate a short-term solution to this via the commercial insurance market and implement a long-term solution by means of an amendment to the liability legislation?

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