Eoin English: Groundhog day for water-weary Cork traders 

Putting out sandbags, lifting stock, installing flood barriers and packing away the street furniture is all too familiar for Cork City businesses
Eoin English: Groundhog day for water-weary Cork traders 

Floods on the South Mall, Cork, on Tuesday. Picture: Dan Linehan

It was like groundhog day in Cork City on Tuesday as tired but resilient traders braced again for flooding.

There was a bitter sense of the familiar as those in the flood risk zones placed sandbags, lifted stock, installed flood barriers and packed away the street furniture which for many has been a lifeline during the Covid lockdowns.

They went to bed on Monday night hoping they’d dodge another bullet at high tide yesterday morning but they can never be sure. 

The tidal software predicts. The weather then does what it wants. 

Thankfully, the models were right and the river Lee breached the quay walls where predicted, and to the extent predicted.

But as traders watched the floodwater creep north from Morrison's Island towards the part of the city which has been most reimagined since Covid, memories of the large-scale tidal flood events of October 2020, 2014, 2012, and the dam-related flood event of 2009 loomed large before the floodwaters receded.

And again, talk turned to how best to solve this recurring problem.

Save Cork City (SCC), the campaign group opposing the OPW’s Lower Lee flood defence scheme, and which took a legal challenge against city council plans for a blended public realm and flood defence scheme on Morrison’s Island which could remove 80% of the flood risk to the city centre, tweeted on Monday night: “In times of uncertainty the Cork Tidal Barrier would offer protection from tidal flooding during spring tides. Stay safe over the next 24 hours.” 

 Flooding on Morrisons Quay, Cork City during Storm Barra. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Flooding on Morrisons Quay, Cork City during Storm Barra. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

The OPW has ruled out the tidal barrier option on several cost, environmental and technical grounds. The city council is still trying to advance the Morrison’s Island scheme.

Richard Jacob, the co-owner of Idaho Cafe on Caroline St, supports SCC's stance despite the fact  its legal challenges means his business remains at risk of flooding.

The idea of letting the OPW loose in the medieval city, and spending 10 years on a project that might only be of benefit for 30 or 40 years – I’d question if that is the right thing to do." 

“And the OPW’s history of intervention is shocking."

He recalls the disruption caused by the main drainage and St Patrick’s Street revamp and believes they'll pale into insignificance compared to the flood defence works.

Kevin Herlihy, who runs three Centra stores in the city centre, two of which were closed on Tuesday, says he understands those concerns, but doesn't agree. 

“I understand that there will be disruption during the works but we need it to happen – it's the lesser of two evils,” he says. 

"The sooner the problem is addressed the better for everyone who cares about the city centre.

“There will be no city left, we’ll be underwater, if something isn’t done soon.

“I’ve seen the plans, I’ve looked at them in detail and I support what the council and the OPW are trying to do."

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