Micheál Martin says Cork tidal barrier needs to be re-examined

Fianna Fáil leader says that building walls for flood defences has limitations

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: “I think we must look long and hard at the barrage idea.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: “I think we must look long and hard at the barrage idea.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has insisted a tidal barrier proposal by the Save Cork City (SCC) group as part of its response to the €140 million Cork flood-defence scheme needs to be re-examined.

SCC has called for the construction of a tidal barrier at Little Island to reduce tidal flood risk, and a number of upstream mitigation measures to minimise fluvial flood risk. The OPW has previously claimed a multimillion euro Thames-style tidal barrier was not economically feasible.

However, Mr Martin says the issue of the barrier needs to be professionally and seriously examined.

“I think we must look long and hard at the barrage idea,” Mr Martin said. “The whole programme of building walls for flood defences has limitations. It is going to take 10 years to complete all of that. Ultimately, the issue of the barrier should be professionally and seriously examined.

“Can we really develop the docklands without a proper plan for the tidal flows and protection from flooding? I don’t think we can. Are we really going to build walls the whole way down [Cork harbour]? We need to examine this – I haven’t heard any technical or engineering objections to the idea of a tidal barrier.

“People simply say that there are cost issues. But we have not, in my view, had any satisfactory technical reasons or engineering reasons as to why it shouldn’t happen.”

Historical landscape

The SCC has warned that a ring of high walls and pump chambers around Cork city centre would destroy the city’s historical landscape.

SCC spokesman Seán Ó Muirí said the group was delighted Mr Martin was supporting the option of a tidal barrier to deal with Cork’s flooding issues.

“From technical analysis it has been established that the construction of a barrier at the exit of Lough Mahon can resolve both the tidal and fluvial issues, due to Lough Mahon’s storage capacity,” said Mr Ó Muirí.

“Building a barrier would do more than simply protect the city from flooding – it would protect the city economically. Up to 10 years of upheaval in the city centre would set Cork back irrevocably, undermining all the great work that has been undertaken in recent years to enhance trade and tourism in the city.

“The people of Cork simply don’t want concrete walls and pump chambers. The legacy of this generation cannot be that we turned our back on our river, our greatest asset, the very thing that defines our city. The barrier is the best option for Cork going forward.”

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has previously defended its estimate that a tidal barrier for Cork city would cost at least €450 million. It said such a barrier would do nothing to prevent fluvial or river flooding of the city centre.

Studies by the OPW found that building a tidal barrier would prevent €40 million worth of flood damage over the lifespan of the scheme, so any tidal barrier would have to cost less than €40 million to be cost effective.