Work on flood relief scheme in Cork to start shortly, council confirms

The Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence project will protect 400 city centre properties

Severe flooding on South Mall, Cork. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Work is due to begin shortly on up to €20 million worth of flood defences in Cork at one of the city’s most notorious flooding black spots.

The Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence project, which includes an integrated flood defence system on the river Lee, will protect 400 city centre properties.

Low walls and railings on Morrison’s Island offer little protection when water levels rise through heavy rains and high tides in the south channel of the river Lee, When the water tops the low-lying quays, it starts flowing down Fr Matthew Street and on to the South Mall.

Once flood waters top the central median in South Mall, they flow down the gradual gradient in the city centre.


But now the Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence project, which is supported by the OPW and will take 20 months to complete, will offer flood protection along almost 1km of the south channel.

The project, which will be carried out by Meath-based Jons Civil Engineering Company Ltd, will also see the construction of a 3m-wide riverside promenade along the length of Morrison’s Quay and Fr Mathew Quay, and the rerouting of traffic and reduced parking to facilitate significant improvements for pedestrians, wheelchair users and cyclists.

The project will also see improved access to Trinity Bridge and the provision of public seating, and refurbishment and enhancement of heritage features. It will also incorporate the planting of 25 trees at a new Parnell Plaza and pollinator-friendly herbaceous plants.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Kieran McCarthy, a keen local historian who conducts free historical walking tours, said the project would transform the city centre.

“The Morrison’s Island scheme is the city’s opportunity to bring about comprehensive regeneration of this historic part of the city and to reorientate it towards the river, transforming it into a top-class public space, and highlighting features of architectural and heritage interest.”

An Bord Pleanála had granted planning permission for the project in June 2000 but campaign group Save Cork City Community Association appealed the decision to the High Court where Mr Justice Richard Humphreys found the group had not made a case to quash the planning.

Save Cork City then took a leapfrog appeal to the Supreme Court, which refused in December 2022 to strike down the High Court decision, thus paving the way for the OPW to obtain tenders for the work which will now start in a few weeks’ time.

Aaron Mansworth, president of the Cork Business Association (CBA), said the project would provide essential flood protection in the area whose commercial potential was recently highlighted by Premier Inn redeveloping the old Moore’s Hotel site on Morrison’s Island.

“Crucially, it will provide essential flood protection long campaigned for by CBA, reassuring property owners and businesses by safeguarding their premises and livelihoods. In these challenging times, the reassurance of flood protection is highly positive and very welcome.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times