It should have been a busy trading day ahead of the six-week lockdown, but instead they spent it mopping up before shutting down after the worst flood to hit Cork City in years.
Up to 100 premises in and around the Oliver Plunkett St area of the city were inundated after the River Lee burst its banks, leading to mounting calls for the campaign group Save Cork City (SCC) to withdraw its latest legal challenge to a critical flood defence project.
Authorities said if the stalled Morrison’s Island public realm upgrade was in place, it would have prevented yesterday's tidal flood.
The near-€7m scheme was first approved by city councillors in 2018 and then withdrawn after a SCC legal challenge.
An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve the project this summer is now facing a potential High Court challenge from the group.
SCC is also leading objections to the OPW’s larger €150m Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme, insisting that a tidal barrier is the best way to protect the city.
Paul Montgomery, of Clancy’s bar and restaurant on Princes St which was affected by flooding again yesterday, said it is now time for action on flood relief.
“Cork City Council is in charge of Cork City, we need to leave Cork City Council and the experts, engineers, and OPW deal with this," he said.
"I’ve heard the arguments for tidal barriers, but I’ve heard expert engineers say it would take 20 years to build a tidal barrier. We’ll be long gone in 20 years if we’re waiting for that.”
Pharmacist John Minihan, whose premises on Oliver Plunkett St escaped major damage, said: “Let’s call a spade a spade. We could have avoided this if the flood defences on Morrison’s Island were done.
“We can argue about the theory of what to do, but we have to make decisions. They won’t always be the right decisions, but anyone who doesn’t make a decision won’t achieve anything."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government will ensure that supports are provided to affected business under the existing humanitarian and business schemes.
However, he said that the flood event is further evidence of the need to progress flood defence works in the city.
OPW minister Patrick O’Donovan visited the area and pleaded with SCC to withdraw its legal challenge.
“I am appealing to people to think again, to pull back from what is currently going on,” he said.
"There is a time and a place for everything.”
In a statement, SCC said it was "very saddened" to see people in difficulty, but can offer them little comfort other than to offer sympathy.
It said the OPW's flood defence walls and demountable barriers solution is out of step with current thinking and far more destructive to the city than other possibilities.
“People sweeping out shops sought solutions and don't want to be used as pawns to force the aims of OPW on the city," the group stated.
“These are not times for Government bullying but times for conversation, and thoughtful reflection."
But it added: “We will reconsider all our actions in the next few days, including any court action.”
Water levels yesterday were just four inches below levels reached during the February 2014 tidal flood event which affected some 300 premises and caused millions of euro worth of damage.