Insurance offers protection against risk, but not against certainty – this is the cold-comfort response that homeowners in areas prone to flooding get when they question why they can’t get covered. Many people who have been hit by the recent floods will be left to pick up the pieces without the help of a cheque from an insurance claim; often because they were flooded before and so couldn’t get the cover that they needed.

The people whose homes, land and businesses have been destroyed are left to pick up the pieces, and the bill themselves, although aid in the form of clean up grants do offer some help. The question is, should insurance companies be compelled to provide cover in these instances and give those at risk of flooding some certainty in the event of their homes being damaged in the future?

The government believes that insurance companies should be more willing to sell polices to those people who live in areas where flood defences, whether temporary or permanent, have been put in place. The Taoiseach and cabinet members concerned with the issues at hand, met the insurance industry this week to discuss the options. The industry agreed to look at whether they could offer more policies to those in areas with ‘demountable’ flood defences. That would help a small measure of the people affected by flooding and now protected by flood defences, but there is another solution, one that is more radical and would impact every homeowner in the country.

We asked our Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research panel whether they would be prepared to pay higher insurance to support flood victims. Essentially, we wanted to find out whether people would be happy to pay a levy so that those who are living in flood-prone areas could secure insurance cover. The response was clear – 60% say they would not pay to help out, 23% said they would and 17% don’t know.

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The negative response could in part be explained by the fact that people with any insurance policy in this country already pay a levy. A surcharge of 2% is imposed on every policy to pay for the collapse of Quinn insurance – it’s a levy that is likely to stay in place for 25 more years, despite bringing in €65 million per annum. Perhaps we just don’t have the stomach for another levy, even if, arguably, this one might be put to better use than the 2% we currently pay.

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