In a 550-page ruling, Mr Justice Barrett ruled in favour of UCC in the action it brought for the benefit of its insurers, Aviva, against the ESB for compensation for flood damage to its property.
“ESB’s main priority during the event was for the safety of people downstream,” the company said in a statement. “The inflow of water into the Lee catchment during November 2009 was the worst since records began. The presence of the reservoirs, and the manner in which the dam was operated by ESB meant that the flooding downstream of Inniscarra was less than it otherwise might have been.
“The judgment runs to over 550 pages and the company and its legal team will now review it in detail.”
UCC and Aviva yesterday issued a joint statement in which they thanked the court for the time taken “in hearing and considering this long-running and complex case”.
The statement continued: “UCC believes the response of its staff to the flooding on the night of 19 November 2009 was exemplary and ensured the safety of all staff and students.
“UCC has full confidence in its staff, in particular in their role in the development of the campus. UCC has put in place significant flood protection works since the 2009 event to enhance the safety of staff and students and the protection of the campus.
“UCC and Aviva will consider the implications of the court’s decision with its legal team in the coming days.
“Aviva is committed to promoting awareness of the importance of flood risk management and this ruling provides an important clarification on the obligations of dam operators and property owners in the sphere of flood management,” it concluded.
Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer welcomed the decision but said the city needs a proper flood defence system. “The decision of the court appears to confirm what was already known locally,” the Fine Gael TD said.
“It has ruled on what caused the November 2009 floods, but it can never undo the devastation that was caused. Those floods and the days that followed will live long in the memory for many thousands of people in Cork,” he said. “While an explanation is helpful what are needed most are steps to stop the continual problem of flooding in Cork. Areas like Oliver Plunkett St, Grand Parade and Middle Parish, as well as Togher and Douglas, have been affected by floods on too many occasions.”
He said the Government’s capital plan contains a commitment to putting in place flood defence and prevention system of the scale that Cork requires.
“It will be the largest flood defence scheme ever undertaken by the OPW and it shows that this project is getting the priority it rightly deserves. It is expected that works will commence in 2016 following further public consultations on the proposals.”