On Tuesday 12 January, the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Defence, Deputy Coveney, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Kelly, and the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Harris, met representatives of the insurance industry to raise a number of issues, including the need for flood insurance to be provided in areas where the Office of Public Works, OPW, has completed flood relief schemes and the need to recognise the effectiveness of demountable flood defences in the relevant areas.
In a Government statement following that meeting there was a commitment that within two weeks - which was two days ago - there was to be a follow-up meeting with the industry and that by last Friday the industry was to have responded to the issues raised. We have learned through the media and through leaks in the past 48 hours that the insurance industry has come back, but it has been largely a negative response on these two key issues, in other words, on the issues of taking into account the effectiveness of demountables and the need to ensure all home owners and businesses in areas where OPW schemes have been completed can get flood insurance cover.
It gives me no pleasure to say it but, in effect, the Government has been snubbed by the insurance industry. The outcome means that thousands of home owners and businesses throughout the country continue to be denied flood insurance. There seems to be no strategy at Government level to deal with this.
The insurance industry will say that a high percentage of home owners and businesses in areas where schemes have been completed can get flood cover. However, a survey was released in recent days by a flood alleviation group from Ballinasloe. This is a community project under the auspices of the national flood forum. The group undertook a survey in Derrymullan, Galway. They found that despite the fact an OPW scheme with permanent flood defences - not demountables - was completed five years ago at a cost of €1.5 million, some 60% of those surveyed cannot get flood insurance. The message we are hearing from the insurance companies is not matched with the reality. The figures they are providing to the Government simply cannot be validated.
As the Tánaiste is aware, we brought forward a flood insurance Bill which would compel the insurance industry to provide cover where the OPW has completed schemes to the required EU standard, as set out in the 2007 directive, that is to say, to the one in 100 year standard. The bottom line is that where these schemes have been completed, they have worked, for example, in Fermoy, Mallow and Clonmel. It is not sustainable for the insurance industry to continue to deny the effectiveness of demountables. In some towns the defences have to be of a mobile demountable nature, otherwise the towns simply cannot function. The Government needs to take account of the serious impact this is having. Businesses may not be able to get credit from their banks because the banks will, understandably, seek to ensure there is adequate flood cover. It is going to have an impact on the rates base of local authorities further down the line if this issue is not dealt with.
Did the follow-up meeting which was to have taken place by Tuesday of this week actually take place? Will the Tánaiste confirm that the insurance industry came back to the Government? Will the Government publish the response, whatever it was? Will the Tánaiste outline for Members in the House today the nature of that response? How is the Government going to react to the fact that, unfortunately, the issues raised are not being addressed or dealt with? Ultimately, the people suffering are home owners and business owners who cannot get flood cover in areas where relief schemes have been completed.