Minister defends councils' flood response


Minister for the Environment John Gormley has defended the handling of the flood crisis in Cork by the local authorities and insisted that the focus must now be on ensuring that drinking and sanitation water is provided to up to 18,000 households in the city.

Mr Gormley visited the flood damaged areas in the city this morning and insisted that the local emergency plan had worked well and he praised all those involved in the emergency services for their work over the past 48 hours.

But Mr Gormley refused to be drawn into the controversy over the ESB’s decision to release water from Inniscarra Dam eight miles upstream which precipitated the flooding of over a metre in large parts of the western side of the city yesterday morning.

Asked about the views of local residents on Lancaster Quay, who criticised the ESB for failing to provide proper warning to them of the impending release of water from Inniscarra Dam, Mr Gormley insisted the local emergency plan had worked well for the city.

"I think the ESB have clarified that matter - they’ve put out a statement this morning and they co-operated fully with the emergency plan," Mr Gormley said as he inspected flood damage which threatened to erode the roadway at Grenville Place near the Mercy University Hospital

The ESB said that following "unprecedented levels of water coming downstream" in the River Lee, large volumes of water had to be released from the dams in order to avoid "the certainty of larger and uncontrolled flooding".

The ESB had informed the statutory bodies such as Cork City Council, Cork County Council and the emergency services from early Thursday morning as well as issuing a media alert of the danger of severe flooding between Inniscarra Dam and Cork city, said the company.

Asked if the ESB had done enough by simply informing the local authorities, Mr Gormley replied: "That was in the context of the emergency plan and emergency planning has worked. Now is not the time for recriminations, now is the time to get on and deal with the issue."

Mr Gormley’s view was echoed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin who defended Cork City Council’s handling of the flooding amid criticism from some business owners that the council did not provide sandbags to protect their premises.

"There were sandbags delivered by the army yesterday - they all work together. What’s fundemental is that we support those at the coalface at the moment - there was prioritization when this thing was at its peak - the most important thing was the Mercy hospital."

Meanwhile Cork City Council is due to announce details of its emergency provisions to deal with the water shortage facing the city with up to 18,000 households currently without any water.

Mr Gormley said that it was essential that emergency provisions be made to get both drinking water and sanitation water to the affected households on the northside and the central area of the southside around Turner’s Cross.

Fine Gael has called for an independent inquiry into the handling of the Cork flooding crisis.