Thursday, February 20th 2014
- Long term flood prevention plan to protect Cork must be prioritised.
- Commitment of funding for the project by Minister of State at the OPW, Brian Hayes TD.
In the last few weeks, Cork has again been devastated by flooding, with many businesses and homes in the heart of our city badly affected. Regrettably, the reaction to the 2009 floods in Cork did not prioritise a long term plan to protect our city. While criticism of the length of time it is taking to implement a flood defence scheme is legitimate, it is also important to understand that the flood situation in Cork is not straightforward. Progressing a scheme for the city involves complex and detailed preparations to ensure that the best possible long term solution is found.
The engagement of Minister Hayes is finally bringing about progress. He said that up to €100 million will be made available to carry out flood protection work for Cork. I welcome that announcement. He also stated that a possible starting date for the three-year project will be in 2015. In the meantime, a forum between the OPW, city council and local businesses is being set up to explore interim measures that can help to alleviate the problem. It is a pity that it will take three years to get this done but I welcome the Minister of State’s initiative and his commitment to the project.
Since the widespread floods of 2009, we have not yet seen the protection of Cork city being prioritised. We accept that the city was built on a marsh but today we have a duty of care to protect homeowners, families and city centre businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of Cork’s local economy, unfortunately these have been the hardest hit by the floods. Since 2009 flooding in Cork has cost an estimated €100 million, but the city remains exposed. Businesses remain at risk and homes remain vulnerable.
It is no wonder people become frustrated and disenchanted with politics and bureaucracy when, five years after the flood in 2009, we are only now getting to the end of the process. The President of Cork Chamber of Commerce, Ms Gillian Keating, voiced the frustration of many businesses on local radio. She spoke about the lack of action and the frustration of business people. I do not blame business people for speaking out. The protection of the country’s second city must be prioritised. No economy can thrive when its business centre is subject to persistent and regular flooding. The people of Cork need the remedial works to be prioritised and they demand it. They must finally be given some hope that a long-term solution will be delivered, not promised.
While the development of the scheme must be prioritised and fast-tracked where possible, there must also be an immediate focus on interim measures. The local forum involving the OPW must play a central role in delivering adequate interim protection. This body must get to work as soon as possible and without delay to provide ongoing assistance to those most at risk in Cork city, whether in Blackpool, Douglas or Togher, and, in particular, in the city centre. Let us expedite the situation so that we can end uncertainty and take away the fear people experience when they see a flood warning for Cork.