AN accident between a horse-drawn hackney carriage and a car has prompted a call for a change in the law on public liability insurance for the carriages from Fianna Fáil TD Noel Ahern.

The accident at St Stephen's Green in Dublin, where the carriages have a designated a parking area, took place when a horse bolted and ran its carriage into a car. The driver of the car, a constituent of Ahern's, found he was unable to claim because the carriages are not legally obliged to have insurance.

"Anyone else who ran into him would have had to have cover, " said Ahern. "There is a potential danger to people walking around the place. It ought to be the law that they need insurance." Since their re-introduction to the streets of Dublin, the carriages have proved popular as a tourist attraction, although Irish people have largely stayed away, preferring to make their way about the city on foot or by car.

Ahern has already raised the issue with the Minister for Justice, John O'Donoghue, who has said that he has no function in relation to the issue of insurance cover for horse-drawn vehicles.

While the minister said it was prudent for any business concern to have appropriate insurance cover, he added that this was a matter for the individuals who own the carriages, but Ahern said most owners were not wealthy people.

"It goes back as far as something like the 17th century, " he said, "and comes back to the fact that the horses don't need cover. However, now we have reintroduced the carriages into a busy thoroughfare and we are co-operating with them, then they should have insurance cover." Following the inspection of a number of city sites when horse-drawn carriages were being re-introduced, the St Stephen's Green site was agreed as most suitable by the Gardaí and Dublin Corporation as it did not impact adversely on traffic, local business and pedestrians.

Ahern has said he will now make an approach to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in an effort to have new legislation