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Quick, someone call the Dutch

Minister Simon Harris speaking to reporters after the meeting with insurance company representatives. photo.

By Evan Short

Ireland is to ramp up its defense against water in the coming years but in the meantime tens of thousands of people are being left high and dry when it comes to flood insurance.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny met in recent days with the chief executives of the five main insurance companies in Ireland to discuss insurance cover for those who have been affected by severe flooding over the past few weeks.

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Hundreds of homes and businesses have been underwater in the midlands since Storm Desmond arrived in the first week of December and Storm Frank hit the island just after Christmas.

Many properties are still flooded after unprecedented levels of rain.

Mr. Kenny and several other ministers held a meeting at Government Buildings with the representatives from Aviva, Alliance, FDB, AIG and RSA.

When the meeting broke up the parties agreed to meet again in the coming days.

The meeting came after news that insurance companies were scrutinizing applications for cover up to half a kilometer from water.

Thousands of property owners are being refused cover even though state-funded defenses have been put in place.

It has been estimated that up to 50,000 property owners are currently unable to get insurance cover and Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Simon Harris, has said that insurance companies needed to provide flood insurance more widely.

The government is planning to spend €500 million on flood defenses in the next five years.

But it has been reported that properties in Fermoy and Mallow in County Cork, which have seen millions on flood defenses spent in recent years, cannot get cover from insurers.

The body which represents the insurance industry has called on the government to build more flood defenses before insurance companies agree to any new scheme to pay flood victims.

Insurance Ireland’s Michael Horan said: “The flood problem has been caused by inadequate investment in flood defenses over the years combined with development on flood plains.

“That has made it more difficult for insurance companies to provide insurance in areas of repeat flooding.”

He added: “In areas of repeat flooding you are talking about inevitable events, and insurance is about the risk of something happening, not about covering inevitable events, because if you did that the cost of premiums would skyrocket.”