'If this just stops people from claiming off a business where they're not negligent it will be worth it'
“I’m going to keep fighting and I’m not giving up. I have 25 days left before my insurance expires and I determined to see this through and get insurance for my business somewhere.”
That’s the resolute vow of Huckleberry’s Den owner Linda Murray after her emotion-charged address to politicians at a Dail Committee yesterday.
“We have formed a group called Play Activity and Leisure Ireland (PALI) and there are 60 children’s activity businesses involved. We have obtained everyone’s information over the last five years and have put it all together in a package in a bid to try and get a group scheme.”
The Navan woman says Irish insurers have refused cover but an underwriter in the UK is reportedly very interested in taking the group on.
“We are looking at this company giving us a premium based on last year’s figures. Although they are very high, they are 200% less than what we have been quoted this year.”
That would mean an annual premium of €16,000, a staggering sum, but one Linda Murray said she would pay.
“It’s a very high figure but I’d pay it in a heartbeat because I would do anything to stay in business and save my livelihood and that of my staff. I have 12 employees, some with mortgages and others working here to put themselves through college. I don’t have high staff turnover, we actually have a lovely team and they are so supportive.
“Even today the amount of messages I have received from staff members telling me to keep going has been overwhelming. That is the reason why I got so emotional at the Oireachtas Committee. It’s not just about a business, it’s about the wonderful loyal staff that have stuck by me and all of the families that have become our friends over the years. It’s very tough but I’m just not going to let this go because it’s just not fair.
Linda believes the blame lies with a combination of solicitors, insurance companies and a rise in ‘compo culture’ and says the people who are suffering most are the policyholders - the businesses.
“As a group, the premiums far outweigh the claims. If I was to give you an example, our premiums in the last five years have amounted to €5m. Our claims come to €1m and all that has been paid out of that €1m in our group is €200,000. So there is €4.8m sitting somewhere. So why can’t we get insured, we are obviously profitable? Yes, we do see claims but we don’t have as many claims as we are portrayed as having. Half of our centres don’t even have claims (against them).”
Linda adds that if speaking out stops people with the mindset to claim against small businesses like hers where they haven’t been negligent then her campaign will be worth it.