Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has reacted with anger at the news of the forced closure of the Squirrel Scramble Tree Adventure Park because of increased insurance costs.
The hike saw an increase from €26,000 to a ridiculous €88,000 this year.
Teachta Brady said:
“The responsibility for the forced closure of the Squirrel Scramble Tree Adventure Park due to increased insurance costs of well over three times that from last year, from €26,000 to €88,000, lies firmly at the door of this government.
“We have three government TDs in this county sitting on their hands as small vibrant businesses are being crippled by insurance sharks.
“This is a crippling and unnecessary blow to a small business, to a local community and to the thousands of customers who avail of the excellent facilities.
“The staff and management of the Squirrel Scramble Tree Adventure Park are devastated.
“This closure is unnecessary and unfair. It represents a failure on the part of the government, compounded by the greed of the insurance industry.
“Minister Sean Fleming previously promised to get additional competition into the Irish insurance market. It is high time that he acted on his promise.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly called upon the insurance industry to reduce premiums to bring them into line with the reduced cost of personal injury awards, which has resulted in huge savings for the insurance industry.
“I repeat that call, and to go further and demand further reform of the insurance industry, including legislative changes to the Duty of Care.
“If consumers are to continue to enjoy the services offered by adventure parks such as Squirrel Scramble, they will have to share in the responsibility for their own safety.
“The legislation, as it currently stands, is simply not fit for purpose.
“All that is required is a straightforward amendment to the Civil Liability Act in order to allow the government to improve the legislation around waivers so there is a knowledge and an understanding that when you sign this, it is strong, it is solid and it will stand up in court.
“The actual cost of claims has decreased significantly across the board. Between 2015 and 2019, the cost of public liability claims fell 22%, and in 2019, we witnessed the overall claims ratio falling to its lowest level in a decade.
“If and where insurance companies have faced losses, it has been primarily because of reduced income on their investments, alongside increased commission being paid to brokers.
“Insurance companies must pass on the savings to consumers from the 50% reduction in personal injury awards since the Personal Injuries Guidelines have come into effect.
“I also call on the government to remove the stay on Sinn Féin’s Judicial Council (Amendment) Bill which would have forced the insurance industry to report on whether or not it has passed on the savings onto consumers to the Central Bank each year for the next four years.
“The Dáil would then be able to hold the insurance industry to account and would be able to ensure that businesses like Squirrel Scramble are not forced to close due to the greed of an unaccountable insurance sector.
“This country needs businesses like Squirrel Scramble Tree Adventure Park to not only aid our recovery from the financial impact of Covid. But for their contribution to the fabric of Irish life throughout the country.
“The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has described SMEs as the backbone of Ireland’s economy. SMEs account for 99.8% of all business in the state providing 70% of employment in the state.
“Why is this government not doing more to protect this sector, instead of hanging the albatross of excruciating insurance costs around its neck?
“It is time for this lamentable and ineffective government to get off the stage. It is time for change. It is time for a government that wants to govern for the people of Ireland. The people know where their interests lie.”