I am conscious of the difficulties that the absence or withdrawal of flood insurance cover can cause to homeowners and businesses, and that is one of the reasons the Government has been prioritising investment in flood defences over the last number of years.
However, the Deputy should be aware that the provision of insurance is a commercial matter for insurance companies, which has to be based on a proper assessment of the risks they are willing to accept. This assessment will in many cases include insurers' own presumptions based on their private modelling and research. Consequently, neither the Government nor the Central Bank can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products or has the power to direct insurance companies to provide flood cover to specific individuals or businesses. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance which expressly prohibits Member States from doing so.
Government policy in relation to flooding is focused on the development of a sustainable, planned and risk-based approach to dealing with flooding problems. This in turn should lead to the increased availability of flood insurance. To achieve this aim, there is a focus on:
- prioritising spending on flood relief measures by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and relevant local authorities;
- development and implementation of plans by the OPW to implement flood relief schemes; and
- ongoing communication between the OPW and the insurance industry, in order to reach a better understanding about the provision of flood cover in marginal areas.
The above approach is complemented by a Memorandum of Understanding between the OPW and Insurance Ireland, which provides for the exchange of data in relation to completed flood defence schemes which should provide a basis for the increased provision of flood insurance in areas where works have been completed. In this regard, the Insurance Ireland/OPW working group, which the Department of Finance attends, now meets on a quarterly basis to support the information flow and improve the understanding of issues between both parties.
The core strategy for addressing areas at potentially significant risk from flooding is the OPW Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme. The CFRAM Programme focussed on 300 Areas for Further Assessment (AFAs) including 90 coastal areas, mainly in urban locations nationwide, identified as being at potentially significant risk of flooding. The proposed feasible measures, both structural and non-structural, identified for AFAs are outlined in Flood Risk Management Plans, published in May 2018.
Ballybofey-Stranorlar was included as an AFA with the development of a Flood Relief Scheme proposed for the area. I understand that the proposed Scheme for Ballybofey-Stranorlar is not part of the first phase of projects to be advanced from the nationwide Flood Risk Management Plans, but that the OPW and Donegal County Council will work closely to ensure that it will be commenced in the coming years and within the 10-year timeframe for the programme of investment. Until this time, funding of €157,500 was approved under the OPW's 2018 Minor Works Scheme for the removal of vegetation and trees on embankments and also for the construction of sumps/pumping areas.
Finally, the Deputy should be aware that a consumer can make a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman in relation to any dealings with a Financial Services or Insurance provider during which they feel they have been unfairly treated. In addition, individuals who are experiencing difficulty in obtaining flood insurance or believe that they are being treated unfairly may contact Insurance Ireland, which operates a free Insurance Information Service for those who have queries, complaints or difficulties in relation to insurance.