Catastrophic storm surge in Dublin?

Sir, – Last week during a visit to the Netherlands I got to take my family on a guided tour of the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier. This 9km-long sea defence is a singular, inspiring engineering achievement.

It is also an powerful example of long-term planning by a national government. Following the North Sea Storm of 1953, when over 1,800 people were killed in Zeeland, the Dutch government set about developing an ambitious plan – “Delta Works” – to protect low-lying lands from such traumatic storm events. The storm-surge barrier I visited is the jewel in this Delta Works crown and it was completed in 1986, a full 33 years after the 1953 flood.

With this fresh in my mind, my attention was captured by your newspaper's headline "Catastrophic storm surge in Dublin 'inevitable' over coming decades" (News, November 4th). This article presented the view of Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University that it was only a matter of time before the elements combined to deliver a devastating storm surge in Dublin.

In the face of such a risk, is there not a case for a long-term, ambitious national programme to protect at least the major population centres on Ireland’s coastline? The Netherlands have demonstrated it can be done, albeit at considerable cost to the exchequer. Not having land below sea-level, the costs should not be as dramatic for Ireland as they were for the Dutch.


However, I learned from the article that residents in Clontarf had successfully argued for the lowering of a flood-defence sea wall. So maybe this is an issue where it is for the political class to take the lead. Can they do so before a catastrophic storm surge devastates Dublin? – Yours, etc,