Tuesday 22 May 2018

ESB to appeal ruling on Cork floods amid fears of €90m in claims

Residents wait for assistance on Fenns Quay after Cork city was flooded in November 2009
Residents wait for assistance on Fenns Quay after Cork city was flooded in November 2009
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The ESB is poised to appeal a High Court judgement on a 2009 Cork flood compensation case which now threatens the State power agency with almost €90m in claim pay-outs.

The ESB confirmed its legal team is now examining the ruling by Mr Justice Max Barrett.

The State agency also staunchly defended its handling of the issue.

However, private residents, Cork city centre traders and even a major hospital are now examining further flood claims against the ESB.

"ESB is reviewing the judgement and considering whether there are grounds to appeal," a spokesman confirmed.

The claims threat follows a High Court victory by University College Cork (UCC).

The ESB was ruled to be 60pc liable for extensive damage caused to the UCC campus when the River Lee broke its banks in November 2009.

The floods, the worst in Cork's history, followed a water release by the ESB at its Inniscarra Dam after record levels of rainfall across the Lee Valley.

The ESB insisted it acted at all times in the interests of public safety.

However, UCC claimed the scale of the flood damage was exacerbated by the ESB's unprecedented discharge of water.

Two Cork traders whose businesses were destroyed confirmed their solicitors will now examine the UCC ruling.

Café Depeche owner Humphrey Porter lost one venture in Cork Courthouse, which was swamped, while his primary operation on Lancaster Quay was closed for 10 months after being left under four feet of water.

"I suspect the total cost to us was around €80,000. The café in the courthouse was only opened for five weeks when the flood hit and we never re-opened it," Mr Porter explained.

"I will certainly be talking to my solicitor about the UCC case to see what it means for us."

The only bright note for the café owner was his courthouse operation was being run by a New Zealand waitress, Trinette, who he later married.

Fenn's Quay Bistro owner Kate Lawlor, whose award-winning operation employs 15 staff, lost €50,000 and had to close for four weeks. Ms Lawlor now cannot secure flood insurance cover.

"Aviva was my insurer at the time and I was briefed about the UCC case. I will certainly be taking legal advice about where we stand in all of this," she added.

Solicitor Joe Noonan confirmed he is now acting for 40 Mardyke and South Parish residents whose homes suffered flood damage.

"This is a benchmark ruling for both local residents and insurance companies," he said.

Mardyke Residents Association spokesman Barry Keane demanded an apology from the ESB.

"Many of those who began the fight (for flood justice) are no longer with us," he said.


"The very least they deserve is an apology from ESB, an acceptance of the ruling and not to further drag elderly and ordinary citizens through the courts."

There are also fears of electricity price hikes in the medium term, if the ESB is exposed to a massive increase in insurance fees in the wake of the €90m flood claims.

ESB board members were yesterday either unavailable for comment or could not be contacted in relation to the High Court ruling.

Five members of the ESB board have overseas work commitments. The board includes Chairman Ellvena Graham, Anne Butler, Dave Byrne, Andrew Hastings, Sean Kelly, Seamus Mallon, Tony Merriman, Noreen O'Kelly, Peter O'Sullivan and Noreen Wright.

Irish Independent

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