Almost 250 insurance companies have left the Irish market over the past six years, new figures show.

Since 2014, the licences of 12 life and 42 non-life insurers who had head offices or branches here were revoked.

A further 194 life and non-life insurers who were operating here under EU rules that allow them the freedom to provide services in another member state have also pulled out.

117 or 47% of the almost 250 companies that have ceased offering services here left in the past two years alone, according to the data supplied by the Minister for Finance to Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman, Michael McGrath, on foot of a parliamentary question.

"As more and more firms leave the Irish market, consumers are the ones to lose out," Mr McGrath said.

"Less competition and choice means consumers end up paying more for insurance and, in some cases, are unable to obtain cover at all in the area of public liability."

In his response to Mr McGrath’s question, Paschal Donohoe pointed out that the figures do not show the number of entrants into the Irish market for those years.

But he acknowledged that nonetheless, the data does suggest that there has been an increased trend for non-life companies operating on a freedom of services basis to leave the Irish market, particularly between the years 2017 and 2019.

"There may be a number of factors related to this, including undoubtedly smaller operators not seeking to continue to do business because of requirements to seek a new authorisation as a result of the decision of the UK to exit the EU," said Mr Donohoe.

"However, it is also possible that the difficult financial position that a number of non-life insurers have found themselves in because of the problems being experienced from the unstable claims environment may also be a factor."

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Mr Donohoe said that regardless of what the figures suggest, in order to attract new non-life insurers to operate in the Irish market the recommendations of the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) must be implemented. 

"In particular, I believe it is important to emphasise that the single most essential challenge that must be overcome if there is to be a sustainable increase in the availability and affordability of insurance is to bring the levels of personal injury damages awarded in this country more in line with those awarded in other jurisdictions," he said.

"In this regard, the work of the soon-to-be-established Personal Injures Guidelines Committee as part of the Judicial Council will be essential in achieving that objective."

Mr Donohoe added that once the issue of the level of awards is addressed, the problems facing particular businesses and community groups as a result of particular insurers either withdrawing from the market or increasing the price of insurance should recede.

However, Michael McGrath said the despite the really high insurance premiums being charged, the figures would seem to imply that the Irish market is simply not attractive for a lot of firms.

"The need for insurance reform is more urgent that the government believes and it now requires leadership at cabinet level for whatever time is left in this Dáil," he said.