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Compare NI apologises for using climber Barney Dobbin's death to sell insurance


Barney Dobbin and Niall Quinn

Barney Dobbin and Niall Quinn

Barney Dobbin and Niall Quinn

A Northern Ireland insurance company has apologised after using an article about the death of a Co Antrim mountain climber to promote travel insurance.

Barney Dobbin (25) was killed in December 2018 after reaching the summit of Mount Chimborazo, South America's highest mountain.

Mr Dobbin, who came from Artlone, a small townland between Randalstown and Toome, was a teacher at the British School in Quito, Ecuador.

His friends expressed shock after Compare NI posted an article on their website about his death, with details of their travel insurance packages at the end.

The Dobbin family has now contacted Compare NI via a solicitor.

His friend Niall Quinn (24), whose brother was also good friends with Barney, was the one of the first to spot the article and spoke about it to the BBC's Nolan programme on Monday morning.

"I was shocked when my brother sent me the article. We wrote them an email. I thought it would be best if they just took it down, we wouldn't have to contact Barney's family," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"We never heard back from them and that's when I decided to Tweet them."

Barney's family were too distressed to speak about the article, which Mr Quinn described as "disgusting".

The Compare NI article also had advice on taking out specialised travel insurance cover with the company for anyone undertaking high-altitude mountain ascent overseas.

"It is also important for any overseas travel insurance to include cover to ensure the body of the deceased can be repatriated," the post read. The article has now been removed from Compare NI's website.

The company is yet to contact Mr Quinn or Barney's family to apologise directly for the post, he said .

Mr Quinn said he wants to get justice for Barney, who he says would do the same for anyone in a similar position.

"I owe so much to Barney," he said, of the friend he knew for more than a decade and shared a similar love of hiking and music.

He described Barney as someone who always advocated for others and who showed a special devotion to children with additional needs while working at Camp America in the United States.

"I wouldn't have gotten a 2.1 in my degree without him. He once called me for two hours to reassure me and when I was running the Dublin Marathon in 2018, he texted me at 3am Ecuador time to wish me good luck just before I set off.

"We spoke at least every second day on the phone or Whatsapp. He was my best friend."

Mr Quinn, who has since ran the Belfast Marathon to raise money for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust in memory of his friend, said he's calling on Compare NI to do the "honourable thing" and donate to the charity and to Mourne Mountain Rescue Team to apologise.

He said he's not satisfied by the move to delete the article from their website.

"I don't think their response is good enough. It's disrespecting Barney's legacy - he was one of a kind."

In a statement, Compare NI managing director Ian Wilson said: "On reflection, we completely understand why the family feels this article was not sensitive to their loss, we have removed it from our website, and we apologise for any upset caused."

A spokesperson for the company said for a period of time, the company generated content for their website based on the news agenda at the time but has now discontinued this approach.

Belfast Telegraph