Some years ago Eddie Hobbs presented a TV programme called ‘Rip Off Ireland’ in which he highlighted the soaring prices for various goods and services in the Irish economy. That programme came into my mind in recent weeks as I listened to the debate about the cost of insurance in general – and the cost of public liability insurance in particular.
Anyone who is brave enough to run any kind of activity centre where members of the public, and particularly children, use the facilities will know what I am talking about. One lady who is running an activity centre in Navan told last week of how when she opened her business in 2013 public liability insurance cost her €2,500 for the year. Last year she paid €16,500, and this year her quote is €26,000. By the way, this lady has never had even one claim on her policy.
The sad thing about all this is the forecast that all these activity and play centres could be closed very shortly as a result of this madness. How could you blame them? No-one could afford to stay open and pay that kind of insurance bill. So who is to blame? I heard at least three debates on this subject on the radio in recent weeks. The insurance companies are blaming the legal system, and, surprise, surprise, the legal system is blaming the insurance companies!
There is no doubt that we are a very claim-conscious nation and the awards in courts here are way higher than elsewhere. With such a culture prevailing, there is a temptation for a some people to claim even for the slightest reason. However, it is clear that some insurance companies are ripping people off because they know that the market is limited. Some within the legal system are also putting the boot in as hard as they can. Anyone with car insurance will know what I mean. In recent years most car policies have gone up by between 60% and 100%.
But this situation has even wider implications. Local voluntary organisations that hold events – both indoor and outdoor – like festivals, concerts and anything that might attract a crowd, cannot do so without having public liability insurance.
I am aware of at least three festivals in the Roscommon area which have been stopped or severely restricted because of problems with insurance and some crazy health and safety regulations. This is a crying shame.
This is in contrast to when you go on holidays to the continent where you will encounter festivals in just about every town and village, not to mention markets selling everything under the sun, including every kind of food (hot and cold!). You would never see that here in rural Ireland now. It’s amazing that the same laws cover the continental countries as we have here.
I realise that this is a sticky one for the Government, but as with everything else, political will is needed to sort it out. Many of the awards in our courts are too high, some of the insurance companies and some ‘legal eagles’ are ripping people off, and it will take a brave initiative to sort it all out.
Already a lot of the regular festivals are gone by the wayside. Now the children’s play activity centre business is under severe threat because of this scandal, which is so sad. What’s next? No-one allowed into a pub because there might be a bit of dancing going on? No-one allowed to go to football matches because of the crowds?
It’s all part of the politically correct madness that seems to get worse and worse with every passing day. I pity those people who are trying to make ends meet and who are depending on the insurance companies.