'If this wall collapses, the harbour can't operate': Ballycotton fishermen warn sea barrier needs urgent repairs

Chunks of concrete have been knocked out of the sea wall which protects the eastern side of Ballycotton harbour, home to more than 20 fishing boats 
'If this wall collapses, the harbour can't operate': Ballycotton fishermen warn sea barrier needs urgent repairs

Waves crashing over the sea wall which protects Ballycotton Harbour in East Cork. Fisherman have called for urgent repairs as part of a wider harbour upgrade. Picture courtesy Pat O’Donovan 

Fishermen have called for urgent and long-lasting repairs to a vital sea wall as part of a wider harbour upgrade plan after massive cracks appeared in the structure.

They said the jobs and the commercial viability of the scenic fishing village of Ballycotton in East Cork depends on it.

Chunks of concrete have been knocked out of the sea wall which protects the eastern side of Ballycotton harbour – home to more than 20 fishing boats and a lifeboat station.

The appearance of several large horizontal and vertical cracks forced the closure this week of a raised walkway next to it on safety grounds. The raised platform is popular with walkers and anglers.

 John Tattan, chairman of the Ballycotton Fisherman's Association: 'If this wall, or even a part of it, collapses, the harbour couldn’t operate.' Picture: Dan Linehan
John Tattan, chairman of the Ballycotton Fisherman's Association: 'If this wall, or even a part of it, collapses, the harbour couldn’t operate.' Picture: Dan Linehan

While the sea wall has taken a severe pounding from heavy seas in recent days, John Tattan, chairman of Ballycotton Fishermen’s Association Ltd, said the damage now clearly visible pier-side is the result of several years of neglect.

“If this wall, or even a part of it, collapses, the harbour couldn’t operate,” he said.

“The harbour is home to around 20 fishing boats but in the summer months, there are many more angling boats and marine leisure tourism boats operating out of here.

"The harbour is at the heart of the village of Ballycotton. It is very, very important to the sustainability of the many businesses in the village. The wall has to be repaired and quickly.” 

Cork County Council said it planned to arrange a detailed technical assessment of the structural integrity of the sea wall.

While the pier was closed to traffic for some time earlier this week, vehicular access has been restored after a visual inspection confirmed the pier was structurally sound, and the damage was limited to the sea wall.

Cracks are visible on the seawall, beside the raissed walkway section on Ballycotton Pier, Co Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Cracks are visible on the seawall, beside the raissed walkway section on Ballycotton Pier, Co Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins.

“However, as a precautionary measure, pedestrian access is being closed off to the raised platform area along the eastern sea wall of the pier,” the council said in a statement.

“The outcome of the technical assessment will determine the course of action to be taken.” 

It is understood officials want to inspect the wall from the ocean side. That could take time to arrange.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Danielle Twomey said she was satisfied that officials were doing what they could to resolve the problem.

“I would hope that whatever repair work is required is done quickly,” she said.

But Mr Tattan criticised successive governments for their neglect of rural Ireland, including villages like Ballycotton, and he said the sea wall damage which is now so apparent is just one manifestation of that neglect.

Ballycotton Harbour is home to more than 20 fishing boats and a lifeboat station.
Ballycotton Harbour is home to more than 20 fishing boats and a lifeboat station.

The harbour was built in 1884. Mr Tattan said the fishermen’s association has made several representations to Cork County Council over the years about upgrading the harbour and a feasibility study in 1998 outlined a raft of proposed upgrades.

He wrote to the council again in 2016 expressing a deep sense of urgency about the need to complete the harbour upgrades.

But he said the last major upgrade was the refurbishment of the pier in 2006. Plans to upgrade the breakwater on the western side of the harbour were never advanced, he said.

“We have also advised the council previously that if they put rock armour, or interlocks on the sea-side of the sea wall to break the weather, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said.

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