Cork floods: Taoiseach pledges support for devastated businesses

Micheál Martin: 'Today’s flood event, which has caused damage estimated to run into millions of euro, is further evidence of the need to progress flood defence works in the city to prevent such flooding occurrences in the future.'
Cork floods: Taoiseach pledges support for devastated businesses

Jeweller Roland Kennedy bails out his shop in heavy flooding on Winthrop street, Cork city. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that the Government will ensure that supports are provided to businesses affected by this morning's flooding in Cork.

At a Cabinet meeting this afternoon, the Taoiseach and Ministers agreed in principle to provide the required supports to those affected, under the existing humanitarian and business schemes.

Mr Martin said: “This latest flood event is deeply distressing for business owners in the city. 

"This is a critical time for traders, and they are now facing into another clean-up operation following this morning’s flooding. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged that the news of a second lockdown, coupled with this morning's floods was "deeply distressing for business owners. Picture: Julien Behal
Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged that the news of a second lockdown, coupled with this morning's floods was "deeply distressing for business owners. Picture: Julien Behal

"Myself and my Cabinet colleagues discussed the situation in Cork and agreed that all the necessary supports will be made available to those affected by this morning’s floods. 

We will ensure that these schemes are activated without delay.

“I would encourage business owners to apply for the funding which is being made available to them.

“Today’s flood event, which has caused damage estimated to run into millions of euro, is further evidence of the need to progress flood defence works in the city to prevent such flooding occurrences in the future," he added.

Cork will be deluged 'again and again', OPW Minister warns

Cork city was “0.1 of a metre away” from a catastrophic event like 2014, and will be deluged “again and again and again” if the proposed Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme (LLFRS) doesn’t go ahead.

Those were the angry words of minister in charge of the Office of Public Works (OPW), Patrick O’Donovan, as he came to Cork to inspect the damage done by last night’s tidal event in the city centre.

Businesses throughout the city, already hit by Covid-19 restrictions are now facing clean-up and repair costs after this morning’s flooding swamped low-lying areas of the city centre.

Mr O’Donovan was speaking after inspecting businesses along Oliver Plunkett Street and surrounding areas, which were engulfed in feet of water and spent the morning cleaning out their premises, after the River Lee surged overnight and flooded around 8am.

“There are traders in the lower part of this city who are two days out from a five-week lockdown and facing five weeks of uncertainty, where their stock has been damaged before Christmas.

“We won’t be able to deliver a flood relief scheme within five weeks but what we would be able to deliver is a degree of certainty that we can move forward. I am appealing to people to think again, to pull back from what is currently going on,” he said.

Mr O’Donovan was referring to objectors to the LLFRS, including Save Cork City, who claim the proposed scheme is not necessary and would be ecologically and aesthetically damaging to the city.

Mr O’Donovan called on Save Cork City to drop a legal challenge to the flood scheme.

“Everybody has a right to object and I am fully supportive of the processes in place legally. But the OPW, Cork City Council have taken on board an awful lot of the views that were expressed.

“We believe the scheme is a far better scheme now because of the way we have engaged with both the OPW and the council, individuals and others. But there is a time and a place for everything and the time is now for this city to move forward,” he said.

The scheme would be half-built already if not for objections, and the other half underway, he claimed.

“I will be here, maybe not in two weeks or five weeks or whatever, but I will be here again with the same story, facing the same traders, with the same outdoor staff members, talking about another flood that will happen.

“Even if we got a green light to go ahead today, we are still years away from its completion. 

"Climate is changing faster than the process that we can deliver this scheme and I would appeal to them to consider withdrawing their objection and moving forward in partnership with the people of Cork to deliver a good scheme.

We will not be in a position to protect this city. I will be back here again and again and again.

“I am appealing to those people to look at the faces of those traders on Oliver Plunkett Street, Marlboro Street, Morrison’s Island right down to Patrick Street and tell them it is okay to have this dragged out further, because it is not. 

 The civil defence and Cork fire serrvice dealing with the flooding on Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
The civil defence and Cork fire serrvice dealing with the flooding on Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

"There is a time and a place for everything.” Cork city centre was 0.1 of a metre from the 2014 levels last night, he claimed.

Will it happen again? Absolutely it will happen again. Will we have another one of these again? Most definitely. 

"The only issue is how frequently we are going to have them, and how close will they come to the 2014 level and will they exceed the 2014 level.

“It is absolutely inevitable that this city is going to flood and flood and flood. Somebody has to call time on this.”

Cork experiences 'worst flooding 'in years'

Strong south-westerly winds and heavy overnight rain combined with this morning’s high tide to pushed levels above the 2.6m mark this morning, flooding much of the Cork city centre.

As a result, foloodwaters poured over the low-lying quays in the Morrison’s Island area, spilling northwards onto the South Mall, and across the brow of the road into the side streets and Oliver Plunkett St.

 John Minihan outside his flooded chemist shop on Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
John Minihan outside his flooded chemist shop on Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Other affected streets and areas badly hit include:

  • Sharman Crawford Street
  • Pembroke Street
  • Cornmarket Street
  • Princes Street 
  • Wandesford Quay
  • Winthrop Street
  • Sawmill Street
  • Marlborough Street
  • Caroline Street

Members of Cork City Fire Brigade, the Cork Civil Defence and dozens of city council workers are monitoring the situation, and business owners are surveying the damage done to their properties.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath said that the Government would provide Cork business with "every possible support."

He Tweeted: "Devastating flood scenes in Cork city & suburbs this morning. This is the last thing business owners, workers & residents need right now. 

"Govt will work with @corkcitycouncil @Corkcoco @opwireland & local business groups to provide every possible support."

 A car in the flood water at Fr. Matthew Quay in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
A car in the flood water at Fr. Matthew Quay in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Eoin O’Sullivan, president of the Cork Business Association (CBA), said the latest Covid restrictions combined with another flooding event poses a set of challenges to the city centre not seen since the burning of Cork in 1920.

The Morrison’s Island scheme, which includes blended flood defences, may have helped to prevent last night’s flooding.

An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to grant planning for the scheme is facing a High Court challenge mounted by the campaign group Save Cork City.

Cork City Council Flood Assessment Team, working with Met Éireann, says it does not predict further flooding at high tide times later this evening and tomorrow morning.

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