City officials have defended a €5,000 spend on social media activity explaining the controversial €140m Cork flood defence scheme and said they will continue to challenge “untruths and factual inaccuracies” about the project.
They said the spend on explaining the Lower Lee flood relief scheme will continue and the costs of the “communications exercise” will be finalised when the final plans are submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in the coming months for approval.
The costs will be borne jointly by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the city council, they said.
The details emerged in response to a question tabled by Green Party Cllr Oliver Moran about the recent social media activity on the flood defence scheme - the largest single investment in flood defences in the history of the state.
The scheme has faced a barrage of criticism, led by the Save Cork City (SCC) campaign group, who have branded it a “walls scheme” and who insist a tidal barrier is the only way to protect the city.
However, in recent weeks the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Cork City Council have mounted a new communications campaign to explain and promote the scheme.
It includes dedicated Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts which have posted links and videos about it.
Mr Moran publicly challenged the tone of a recent tweet from the account which appeared to mimic an SCC tweet and he tabled a written question about the operation and costs of the social media accounts.
In her reply, the council’s director of operations, Valerie O’Sullivan, said councillors are aware of criticisms levelled against the OPW and its project partners for their lack of “comprehensive communication” about the details and evolution of the scheme in the past.
That had led to a “plethora of inaccuracies and misrepresentations” about the scheme “across a range of media, including social media”, she said.
“In that context, and in line with calls, particularly from elected members, to communicate better to the general public, the OPW and Cork City Council undertook a comprehensive communications strategy earlier this year,” she said.
“Communication of the factual position through social media is one element of this strategy, and was essential given the fact that much of the untrue position was broadcast via social media channels.
“The council and the OPW are committed to continuing this improved level of communication to ensure the facts of the scheme are properly reflected, not only in the best interest of the city of Cork, but to set the record straight when untruths and factual inaccuracies appear in the public domain.”
Work on the final design of the scheme is ongoing but could be completed before the end of the year.