LANDOWNERS who allow hunts to cross their land are indemnified in a new insurance deal secured this week by the Irish Masters of Harriers Association (IMHA) and Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association (IMFHA), supported by both the Hunting Association of Ireland and the IHRB.
This new scheme, which comes after many packs around Ireland were halted for months due to no insurance cover, will be known as the National Hunt Steeplechase, Point-to-Point and Field Sports Insurance Programme (NHSPFS).
The scheme follows the model established by the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC), and it is believed that growing a group fund over the coming years will help bring a long-term sustainable solution to the insurance problem for hunting.
Riders must have their own public liability insurance, which will be checked up by hunt clubs, and they will be asked to sign an exclusion of liability waiver which, seen by The Irish Field, commits riders to participate at their own risk and waives their legal right to sue the hunt.
While there was some concern over the cover for landowners, spokesperson for the hunt groups, James Norton, explained: “The policy indemnifies landowners where activities such as hunting, hunter trials and point-to -pointing are on their land. Every hunt club will be provided with a cover note which confirms their participation in the insurance group scheme.
“Individual participants will all be expected to have, and this will be checked by the hunt club, their own public liability insurance cover and they will be asked to sign the approved waiver. Many hunt clubs are arranging that all their members call to the kennels or a local hotel, to sign the waiver in front of a solicitor, so that the hunt secretary has all the waivers together.”
Norton added that the response to the scheme so far has been extremely positive. “This is very, very positive and as time goes on, and both the insurers and ourselves develop our relationship, it can only be good news.
“The response has been overwhelming, there are less than a handful of packs that are not signed up, and those packs are considering the financial burden. They may come in at a later stage or decide to amalgamate with another pack. There is no doubt that this is an initial jolt to the system while we set up the fund,” said Norton, referring to the cost of quotes, understood to be up to €30,000 for some packs.
Norton added that risk management will become more important. “It will require a slight culture change within hunting for people to be more risk aware and risk averse, and for hunts to actively manage their risks. The IMFHA intends to hold information seminars at a later date on that front. The most important thing now is to encourage people to get out and support their local hunt and to enjoy their hunting. Get out and support your local pack, they will need it.”
Welcoming the support for this initiative, the chairman of the IMHA, Austin Fitzpatrick, said: “I am very proud of the work done by the insurance sub-committees over the last few months and of the support for this scheme. Little did we know when we set out on this journey the amount of work, time and effort involved in achieving this outcome.”
The chairman of the IMFHA, Lord Waterford, welcoming the widespread support for the efforts of the sub-committees, said: “This is a good day for both hunting and point-to-pointing and this scheme will not only provide insurance cover for our sports but it will also provide reassurance, if required, to our landowners and farmers where these activities are carried out on their lands.”
Packs, including the Ward Unions and the Wicklow Hunt, were back hunting on Wednesday under the new insurance scheme.