herald

Sunday 26 January 2020

Government under fire as cafes and restaurants next to be hit by soaring premiums

Eoin McCambridge, of McCambridge’s Food Hall and Deli
Eoin McCambridge, of McCambridge’s Food Hall and Deli

The Government has been accused of "falling asleep at the wheel" and endangering thousands of businesses as more sectors look set to be hit by the insurance crisis.

Yesterday it emerged fears are growing that restaurants and cafes may now be faced with soaring premiums after business owners were notified that three leading insurers may not be offering renewals for 2020.

However, Peter Boland, director of campaign group the Alliance for Insurance Reform, says this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"It shouldn't have been allowed to come to this. The Government has had three years to get this sorted and knew what needed to be done - instead they're treating it like an intellectual exercise where process reforms are being prioritised over real reforms," he said.

Mr Boland believes the voluntary sports and community sector is going to be the next area facing a major crisis.

"We've 35 member organisations and all of them are suffering from insurance problems but we are seeing now that the majority of voluntary sporting and community centres are in the process of winding down, with close to 50pc saying they can't continue with insurance the way it is," he said.

Bailout

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has acknowledged there is a serious issue now emerging in the insurance sector.

He said the Government would examine hitting insurance companies who have "handsome profit returns" with a super-tax that will be discussed by the Government in the coming months.

However, asked if there would be a creche-style bailout for the hospitality sector, Mr Flanagan said: "That won't happen, there will be no bailout."

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) was notified on Wednesday that three leading insurers may not be offering renewals next year.

It is understood AIG will not be offering quotes to coffee shops in the new year, AXIS Speciality Europe Ltd has ceased underwriting and may not offer new renewals and SureStone Insurance has withdrawn from the market completely.

Eoin McCambridge, managing director of McCambridge's food hall, deli and restaurant in Co Galway, said he's "dreading January" as his premium for 2019 was €125,000.

"I can't reinvest, I can't expand and we can't hire more people. I fear it will be higher," Mr McCambridge said.

RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins warned members of a possible big impact on the cost of insurance.

Mr Cummins accused the Government of "falling asleep at the wheel."

"The Competition Authority needs to start investigating this immediately," he said.

"Thousands of businesses are being affected and at risk of closing.

"It was creches this week and now it will be restaurants and bars in January."

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