Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Micheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
The Deputy has raised an important issue. Other Deputies have raised it in the context of the broad cost of insurance and the need to get it down across the board. The Deputy has specifically raised it in the context of the equine industry, particularly in terms of insurance for equestrian activities. As he pointed out, up to 14,000 jobs are created in the horse sport sector, predominantly in rural Ireland, according to an economic study carried out in UCD. The importance of that leisure sector to rural Ireland cannot be understated because real jobs and a whole ecosystem emanate from that in terms of the leisure sector, competition, sports horse breeding and so forth.
We are aware that high-risk activity sectors, including equestrian pursuits, are experiencing issues around accessibility and affordability of insurance. The latest national claims information database report shows that the public liability market in Ireland has been loss-making for several years and therefore has been unattractive to insurers. In addition, large insurance claims arising from incidents have an effect on premium prices across specific sectors. However, following recent intensive engagements with the insurance industry, I understand from the Department of Finance that some providers are considering the possibility of entering the equestrian sector. The Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, is available for consultations on this, given his responsibility for the broader area of insurance. I suggest that an engagement with him could further elaborate on that point.
The Department of Justice has recently completed a review of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1995, including the duty of care, notice and waivers, and the Minister for Justice has noted the Government's intention to bring forward legislative proposals to reform the law in this area. The planned rebalancing of the duty of care, with a view to applying a common sense approach to risk, is of particular relevance to equestrian activities as it will help to address so called slips, trips and falls. The introduction of the new personal injury guidelines set reduced levels for personal injury compensation awards in Ireland and changed the amounts of general damages to be awarded by the courts and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB. Early data from PIAB demonstrated that award levels have declined by an average of 40%.
Insurance reform continues to be a major item of government. A sub-committee of Cabinet deals specifically across different Departments, and exclusively, with the issue of insurance. The office to promote competition in the insurance market has been established and is chaired by the Minister of State, Deputy Fleming. Its objective is to assist in reducing insurance costs and increasing the availability of cover by promoting competition in the insurance market.