Independent Insurance officially opened its Irish office this week, but the office in Dublin has already written more than £600,000 worth of new business in December.

The operation is headed by Michael Gaughan, the former head of marketing, who is planning to recruit a 20-strong team by the end of the year.

Two key positions have already been filled. Neil McSherry is regional underwriting manager and Alan Gill is risk control manager. They have both been with Independent for eight years.

Gaughan said the company plans to win a substantial share of the £1.5 billion Irish commercial insurance market. Currently, 90% of the business is accounted for by the top ten insurers.

"We will be playing to our strengths in Ireland, with the emphasis on the Independent brand and our distinctive relationships with a small panel of brokers," he said.

"The importance of high-quality risk management and health and safety advice has already been recognised in Ireland, as it has in the UK.

"We will also be looking to promote the advantage of long-term policies, which we have pioneered and which have been extremely well received in the UK market."