One of the region’s most popular family tourist attractions is the latest local enterprise to fall foul of a dramatic hike in insurance costs, forcing it to close its doors to the public just before the high-season kicks in.
Paddy O’Reilly (pictured) of Killinkere Visitor and Pet Farm believes others are and will be affected, and that entrepreneurs, if their new venture is dealing with the public, will now “think twice” about going into business when faced with the threat of “compo-culture gone mad”.
“The whole thing has gone out of control,” says Paddy, who set up the traditional farm attraction back in 2009, after leaving behind both a fuel company and plant hire business. In the past decade, Paddy has seen the Lisnagirl tourist site’s insurance costs increase dramatically, more than 15-fold. He spent the first four-months of 2019 engaging with four separate brokers only to receive just one quote from a single company of €11,000. The insurance firm which covered the Killinkere visitor farm last year had simply said: “No way. Not at any price. They weren’t going to cover us. They were getting out.”
The visitor farm business, set up as a retirement activity for Paddy and his wife, suffered just one claim in 10 years of business.
“We put about €200,000 of our own money into the whole thing, new sheds, doing up old ones. In the first few years that was everything we had. When it all started out the insurance cost was just €700. That’s all. To get to where it is now is very hard to understand.
“Something is very wrong somewhere. And that €11,000 wasn’t getting me as comprehensive cover as I was getting before,” adds Paddy, whose open farm is hugely popular with families and local schools across Cavan and neighbouring Monaghan and Meath.
Paddy says he knows other businesses have similarly been forced to close, as they too have been unable to meet the cost of adequate cover.
The widespread shock that Killinkere Visitor Farm has had to shut its gates is evident by the hundreds of calls and kind messages Paddy has received since they announced the closure.
“It’s very disappointing, I’ll have to say,” says Paddy, who as a result of failing to attain insurance, had to cancel more than half a dozen bookings in what would have been their busiest time of the season with school tours.
Other calendar events, such as Summer Camps, and Hallowe’en and Christmas events have also been put off, and Paddy is unsure if the visitor farm will ever reopen unless something is done at national level to rein in the cost of insurance for small Irish businesses.
“The number of phone calls I’ve got from people, it’s unbelievable. So disappointed. The kids loved it up here, and we enjoyed having them here too. On the ponies, feeding the deer, bringing them for a spin in the trailer, it was all good fun. The insurance thing has spoiled that now.
“It’s very hard to come back from I feel unless something is done, and something has to be done because there’ll be more like us. More closures, more businesses that’ll try keep going without [insurance], and that’ll be a bigger mess.”
The Killinkere Visitor Farm closure is the second business in the locality to close in as many weeks citing exorbitant cost of insurance as the primary reason for their decision to shut.
Last week V Bar and Club attached to nearby Virginia’s Riverfront Hotel posted on social media to say that they have shut their weekly Saturday club night.
“Unfortunately insurance costs has been instrumental in our decision,” read a statement posted on social media.
The family hotel business, run by Jimmy and Antoinette Murray, say the Riverfront intends to host entertainment events in future. “This decision will not effect any other aspect of our business. The Riverfront will continue as normal,” they add, while thanking patrons to the Saturday night club for their support over the years.
Club V is set to celebrate eight years in business next month, and recently underwent significant refurbishment and investment in the premises.
Meanwhile, Janice Bennett, proprietor of Out Doors and Dirty (ODD) near Bawnboy, considers her business “luckier” than other in the fact that they were able to get insurance cover for the year ahead.
She admitted as much when speaking opening about the challenges her business has faced as a member of the audience on RTE’s Claire Byrne show recently.
ODD, an outdoor extreme activities centre, has experienced a 47% jump in the cost of their premium in 2019, this despite the company operating “claim free” since inception some 13 years ago.
“It has been increasingly difficult, and it leaves things very uncertain,” Janice told The Anglo-Celt, adding that the impact of the hike in insurance costs, coupled with the uncertainties of Brexit and the return of the 13.5% VAT rate in hospitality sector is having an impact.
“It has all landed in one big fell swoop.”