IRELAND'S most flood-prone city is to get €100m for a fast-tracked flood protection scheme.
Mr Hayes, who met with Cork City Council officials last night following disastrous city centre flooding on Monday and Tuesday, said such a scheme was now "an absolute priority" for the Coalition.
The scheme is expected to involve detailed quay-based defences rather than a Thames-style tidal flood barrier.
Some experts stressed that an outer harbour flood defence barrier could cost as much as €3bn.
"The Government is absolutely committed to resolving this issue," Mr Hayes said.
"The scheme being brought forward will be published in July where the preferred option will be set out.
"Assuming we can get through all the phases of that development, there is no reason we can't start constructing this scheme at the end of next year – 2015 – and it will be at least a three-year project and could well be in excess in €50m."
He vowed to do everything in his power to fast-track the project.
"We don't want to see any slippage in the timeline surrounding this major capital scheme," he added.
"This is an absolute priority for the Government. This will be the biggest flood defence scheme we will be proceeding with and the funding is in place for this.
"This is about getting the right scheme. It is not about funding. Funding is not the issue here."
Mr Hayes agreed with irate traders that Ireland's second city should not be subjected to such damaging floods on a regular basis.
"It is a disgrace quite frankly that a city the size of Cork should be put through this on such a regular basis," he said.
Mr Hayes toured flood-hit parts of Cork and Kerry and will today address a flood risk management conference.
He met with Cork City Manager Tim Lucey and Lord Mayor Cllr Catherine Clancy (Lab) to be briefed on flooding last Monday and Tuesday which caused an estimated €50m in damage for city-centre traders.
Mr Hayes said the flood damage over recent weeks was a reminder of how important proper flood defences were.
"By comparison to other European countries, we are not as well prepared," he said.