A letter sent to a landowner from a member of the public stated that his privately owned land was for the “enjoyment of all and not the gratification of one family”, the Dáil was told this week during a debate on insurance reform.

Last month, Cabinet approved proposed amendments to current legislation relating to the issue of ‘duty of care’. This is one key component of the government’s insurance-reform action plan, published in December 2020, which was up for debate this week in the Dáil.

In this context, Deputy Cathal Crowe raised the issue of trespassing, which, he said, is “still very real” in Ireland, especially on privately owned land.

“Just last month, the Cabinet agreed a tightening up of insurance and will look at the whole realm of people filing insurance claims for being on a premises they never had authorisation to be on in the first place,” he said.

Trespassing is still very real in Ireland and farmers feel it an awful lot,” he added.

He then described the contents of a letter sent to a landowner in which the landowner was told that their “privately owned parcel of land, which has been in private ownership for generations, is for the enjoyment of all and not the gratification of one family”.

“Good Jesus, this is private property, which is there for a farmer or landowner to use,” he said.

He added that if people want to go hiking and walk across land, they can do so with consent from a landowner but trespassing without someone’s consent is “legally wrong and should also be wrong from an insurance perspective”.

“They are interfacing with cattle, livestock and electric fences. There could be bog holes, watercourses and whatnot.

“If someone is to take any risk to be on someone’s land without authorisation, they need to be prepared to face the consequences, if any,” he said.

Rural impact of insurance costs

Other TDs raised the impact of insurance costs on rural businesses, rural communities, and on rural commuters, and a common theme throughout the debate was that insurance reform is not happening fast enough.

Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh mentioned the plight of Delphi Adventure Centre located in rural Co. Mayo.

“This is one business that is crippled by insurance costs, with a 300% increase since 2019 and an excess of up to €20,000, despite having an excellent safety record,” she said.

She also said that she recently conducted a survey of apprentices across the country on the cost-of-living pressures they face.

“Despite rent soaring and fuel costs, car insurance continued to stand out as one of the biggest issues for young people attempting to get a trade,” she said.

“In a rural constituency such as Mayo, where people have no alternative, car insurance is not an optional extra but an integral part of employment, self-employment, and educational attainment.”

Deputy Ged Nash said that the hospitality sector, agricultural shows and festivals, and leisure and childcare centres have seen very substantial increases in insurance premiums recently, “even though we are being told time and again that premiums are coming down”.

Citing the experience of the owner of the Irish Military Museum and Park, built on the site of a former beef farm in Co. Louth, Deputy Nash said:

“It gets thousands of visitors every year. He is a collector of significant military memorabilia, and the museum is a very popular destination for people across the country and elsewhere.

“When he started his business eight years ago, his insurance premiums were €8,500 a year. This year, it is €28,000. It is quite extraordinary.”

Deputy Sean Canney spoke of the community work carried out by voluntary groups involved in rural social schemes and community employment schemes in his area of Galway east.

“However, they are not able to do work on the roads or in public areas without having public liability insurance,” he said.

“Those groups are doing the work of the local authority and that work should be covered by the local authority as part of its overall insurance cover. The situation as it stands is creating a layer of insurance on top of a layer of insurance.

“People, including Tidy Towns volunteers, cannot do work in those areas. They cannot do grass trimming or whatever else. Local authorities do not have the people to do that work. We must be practical,” he said.