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The Government and Cork City Council have been accused of failing to deliver on flood relief for Cork city after many businesses in the city centre had a lucky escape over the weekend when the river Lee burst its banks at high tide.
Solicitor, Elaine O’Sullivan who runs a legal practice on South Terrace near the city centre said that business owners were extremely fortunate not to be cleaning out their premises after the south channel of the Lee burst its banks at high tide yesterday morning and again last night.
“This weekend we saw a near catastrophic miss for the centre of Cork city as the Lee overflowed onto streets and close to many buildings. I run a legal practice on South Terrace which suffered minor flooding on Sunday and the service by the local authority was under par to say the least.”
According to Ms O’Sullivan, water was flowing over the footbridge at the College of Commerce and on to South Terrace for half an hour before the road was closed and this only happened some 15 minutes after she contacted Anglesea Street Garda Station to voice her concerns.
“Some 15 minutes later a council crew casually arrived and closed the road just minutes before the expected high tide. Where is the coordinated emergency action planning here? Traffic continued to travel the street even after closure signs had been erected.”
According to Ms O’Sullivan, buses weighing up to 20 tonnes continued to drive along South Terrace despite the signage with the result that floodwaters were washed towards buildings increasing the risk of them being flooded while there was no one to police the road closures.
“Many may have been following it on social media but the silence from our City Council on twitter, an effective media to communicate warnings and safety messages, was deafening. The council’s most recent tweet, as of Monday morning, was last Friday and related to the Pulses of Tradition.
“It is high time some of its €151 million budget and 6,500 staff paid €62 million get a living pulse into its services and communications,” said Ms O’Sullivan who pointed out that businesses in Cork city pay €66.7 million in rates and expect proper services in return.
“There is also a larger issue at play. Cork city suffered a catastrophic flood in 2009 and three more floods that I recall in recent years. We are Ireland’s lowest lying City – 2009 is seven years ago. That is over 2,000 days, nearly 50,000 hours and still work has not begun on a flood defence scheme.”
“Funding has been allocated to trophy projects like an events centre and a new GAA stadium that may fill once a year. This is farcical. Our city is the daily fulcrum of our regional economy and it cannot continue to operate with the ongoing threat of floods.
“It is urgently needed to bring stability to the infrastructure in our city. The €40 million contribution to the stadium would have been much better spent on a key infrastructural project set to cost €50-€60 million especially as 80 per cent of City Council’s income comes from within the city boundaries.
“The construction industry, the Cork Business Association and many other lobby groups have called for action on a flood defence scheme and it is unacceptable that we may be waiting 5 further years until such a scheme is complete - 2020 vision! That is 11 years since the major flood of 2009.