Cork’s underlying problem


Sir, – The decision by the OPW to opt for unsightly parapet walls, in order to counter Cork’s flooding problems, has become controversial. No wonder, for it seems to be driven mostly financial considerations that are only valid in the short term. It seems, also, to be an overreaction to the major, and partly avoidable, river flooding of November 2009, and the subsequent refusal by insurance companies to continue to indemnify those unfortunate citizens who suffered damage.

But the history of the city’s vulnerability stretches much further back than the disastrous events of 2009. Indeed, much of Cork’s charm derives from its peculiar situation “in between two channels” of the Lee – idir dhá shruth! It was only in the 11th and 12th centuries that its first canals could be dug, and the mud, which was cut from them, dumped onto the marsh without being washed away. And like other medieval ports, as Cork grew, it continued to suffer inundation; frequently becoming trapped in between rising sea level and excessive river flows.

And angry cries of “obfuscation!” by Cork Business Association against the scheme’s opponents, do not respect an issue that is far from simple. In my own area of expertise, I know of one major factor that has not been addressed. What is the impact of modern basements on flooding potential? These deep structures continue to be built under new developments in Cork despite the fact that they obstruct groundwater flow in the underlying gravels. Like toy ducks floating in a child’s bath, if you push the ducks down with your hand, then the water level rises!

Surely, the city needs corrective measures that firstly, do not pretend to rid us of an ancient problem, and secondly, that are based on wider perspectives? Cork deserves better. – Yours, etc,


Consulting Geologist,