17th September, 2021
Yesterday we (Chris and Anthea) met with Minister Sean Fleming in Leinster House, this is how the meeting went.
Meeting with Minister Sean Fleming Leinster House September 29th 2021.
Anthea Lang, Squirrel's Scramble Tree Adventure Park, opened with the following statement:
is all it took, out of 160,000 customers. They weren't even customers. They didn't pay to enter our premises. They weren't taking part in our activities. And yet we're told because they can't put one foot in front of the other our premium skyrockets and we’re forced to close? That can't be right. What about the thousands of people that managed to come through our park unscathed?
The laws in Ireland leave SMEs completely vulnerable and the incentive for litigious people is too high.
We protect our customers, we make sure they are safe, but who protects us? We need laws in place that protect us from a broken system that allows a minority to make extortionate claims that hang over a business for years like a ball and chain.
Running an SME in this country with the duty of care imbalance and the awards still too high is like having Damocles Sword constantly over your head hanging by a mere hair. The stress and anxiety of putting your neck on the line EVERY SINGLE TIME a customer enters the premises is too much which has lead us to tell ourselves now THIS IS NOT WORTH IT.
Leo Varadkar said it himself, SMEs are the backbone of Ireland's economy. That backbone is breaking under the weight of inadequate litigation without ANY support from the Government. The last time we sat around this table two years ago when we warned the then Minister for Finance Michael D'Acry that this was coming, the message he gave was you're on your own.
Well Minister Sean Fleming I believe in you, and the team you have behind you. I believe you have the power to create change in our broken system, I have every hope that you will not give us the same response as your predecessor.
Help us to reopen. You have the power to prevent the imminent tidal wave of business closures from happening. And not just businesses like ours, sports clubs, community centres, play centres, crèches, playgrounds, the list goes on. Enable the children of Ireland to have the same opportunities children do in other European countries.
We want our kids to see life as an adventure, for doing the things they never thought they could, for challenging their limits NOT limiting their challenges. Ireland NEEDS places like ours. Just take a look through all these messages from our customers when they found out we had to close.
Read them and you will see that the people want an outdoor activities sector in Ireland.
The government needs to decide if they will give the people what they want. If they do, then the government needs to step in and provide a short term shared indemnity until the insurance industry deems it feasible to do business here.
- The changes you have made so far are great for personal insurance I can’t wait to see my car insurance drop but these changes are not having any impact on commercial public liability insurance so let’s not get the two get mixed up.
- They are adjusting their pricing for car insurance but they are saying they need to see what happens when it comes to liability insurance.
- Effectively that mindset is damning for our sector but our sector is underpinning our tourism. €8.9bn in revenue was generated from tourism on the island of Ireland in 2019.
- Since we have opened we have provided half a million hours of screen free exercise to children. Our sector is vital to the government-led initiative Healthy Ireland which aims to create a healthy Irish society where everyone can get outside and be active.
- The government needs to step in and take the lead, approach a panel of insurers and create a scheme where the government provides indemnity. To look at joint Government and Private Insurers (local or Re-insurers) working together to actively solve this problem.
- Amend the Civil Liability act to strengthen waivers.
- Amend the Occupiers Liability Act to rebalance the duty of care in a way that is fair and proportionate.
- Claims happen – that is what insurance is there to cover. But the load must be spread across the entire group, not reclaimed through the single policy.
- Essentially, the government needs to decide if they want an outdoor activities sector in Ireland or not, if they do, then the Government needs to step in as a matter of urgency.”
The meeting in summary:
Sean Fleming made the following statements:
Duty of care, you should have some responsibility for your own actions.
The department has been working very heavily on that. As soon as Minister Helen McEntee is back from her leave she will push that.
He will meet with one of the biggest insurance companies in the world from America with a view to getting them to open business in Ireland.
Squirrel’s Scramble looks like a wonderful place and it’s very disappointing to see a business close because of these issues.
When asked, what’s the incentive for insurance companies to come back.
Sean Fleming’s response was that’s up to me to convince them things are changing, the new judicial guidelines, the duty of care legislation the landscape will be different in Ireland next year.
When asked, it’s quite possible come April next year there will be no outdoor activity sector left in Ireland, how do you feel about that?
Sean Fleming’s response was if that’s happening the Cabinet will have to discuss it, if we’re into that serious a situation it will go to Cabinet.
The biggest thing that every insurance company says as to why they haven’t been able to do business in Ireland is the uncertainty about the claims.
You didn’t come in here and out with the problem solved but there is a determination across the cabinet to get it done.
Jennifer Whitmore asked about an interim solution, if there was some way that a short term partnership with a public body/local authority could be established that would allow us access to their insurance on a show term basis until the insurance reform measures have taken effect.
Sean Fleming’s response was that local authorities represent big buying power for insurers so they could take on the difficult cases. It’s something that could be looked at in the department for enterprise.
John Brady brought up the duty of care rebalance and the amendment to the Civil Liability Act asking when it will be addressed. He noted that the drafting of the duty of care legislation was not on the priority legislation for drafting and publication on the Autumn Schedule for the Dáil.
Sean Fleming’s response was that items can become a priority on the schedules for the Dáil.
John Brady also addressed the solution of a short term shared indemnity and brought forward a 2016 letter from Patrick Honohan former Central Bank Governor to the then Minister for Finance Michael Noonan about a no fault insurance regime similar to the New Zealand model.
Sean Fleming also said that you've got great Deputies that raised it, it's not often everybody comes across party. All five Wicklow TDs were invited, Jennifer Whitmore and John Brady attended, Simon Harris's and Stephen Donnelly's offices were listening in via a live stream, Stephen Matthews was also present.
All bookings have now been refunded and emails confirming this, sent out. Please allow some days for this to appear on your account. Thank you.
We will honour all bookings, refunds will be issued on a weekly basis in case we can reopen.
Current refunds that are being processed today are for bookings up to September 26th. If you have a booking after this date and would prefer to cancel your booking and get refunded now please email [email protected]
UPDATE Sept 20th:
We are so grateful for all the messages of support, it’s been so uplifting for us and very helpful.
Many of you have said you would email your local TDs about our situation. We would be delighted if you could do this and believe it will help not only us but everyone else affected by this crisis. We campaigned back in 2019 about the insurance crisis and went into Leinster House to warn the department of finance that this would happen. From our experience the TDs are obliged to read and reply to all emails sent.
Please find some points we believe would make a big impact and some email address to direct them to.
TDs living close to Squirrel’s Scramble, whose kids are directly effected by this loss.
Minister of State at the Department of Finance E: [email protected]
Minister for Finance E: [email protected]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment E: [email protected]
Minister for Justice E: [email protected]
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment E: [email protected]
- We need Minister Sean Fleming to act on his promise to get additional competition into the Irish insurance market.
- We want the duty of care rebalanced so that customers share the responsibility for their own safety. These are the words of Michael D’Arcy when he was still in Leinster house. The current legislation just doesn’t work, by making a straightforward amendment to the Civil Liability act the government can improve the legislation around waivers so there’s a knowledge and an understanding that when you sign this, it is strong, it’s solid and it will stand up in court.
- Ireland needs places like ours to get the recovery going. In the words of Leo Varadkir, SMEs are the backbone of Ireland’s economy, SMEs account for 99.8% of all businesses in our State and for 70% of all employment in Ireland. So why are the government leaving us out to dry?
We're devastated to announce that as of Sunday Sept 19th we have to close temporarily but not because of Covid this time, it's down to a sickness of a different nature that has gripped this country for far longer.
COMPO CULTURE take a bow.
We simply cannot get insurance.
Our last two insurers have high tailed it out of the Irish market. The awards here are too high, the judiciary untouchable, the government inept and inactive, all too consumed with scratching the legal sector's greedy back and last but not least, the litigious nature of too many people not taking responsibility for their own negligence, looking for a quick payout with no regard to the wider consequences for others.
Over the past few years many businesses in our industry and beyond have been dropping like flies because of the ongoing insurance crisis, now it's our turn on the chopping block and there will be plenty more to follow. We need your help and your rage. Please write to your local TDs, ask them what they can do to stop this crisis from closing down all places of activity for our children, teens and adults.
Soon there will be nowhere left to play.
We're heartbroken , we're worried for the future, we're exhausted, we're angry and we're so so sorry we can't stay open at the moment for those of you who love coming to Squirrel's Scramble.
To all the many hundreds of customers we're about to let down, whether you choose to hold onto your booking and reschedule with us in April next year or go for a refund please bear with us as we process everything.
We will continue to seek insurance and we will reopen as soon as possible. We are told the market will be different by April next year so we hope to re-open then. If you can help us get insured we'd love to hear from you.
We are humbled and touched by the outpouring of support from the many well wishers, for that we are extremely grateful.
The Squirrel's Scramble Team.
UPDATE Sept 17th 4.13pm
As we notify customers of their cancellations we have been getting some complaints of the short notice.
Please be aware that we have been struggling to find insurance for weeks now as the date of our renewal approached, only to be turned away again and again. Despite our pleas and best efforts to get an answer quicker explaining that we needed to give our customers more notice, our last hope could not give us a definitve answer until this morning.