ESB to appeal High Court ruling over 2009 Cork flooding

ESB boss says it believes it operates dams in Lee Valley to top international standards

The ESB is to appeal a High Court ruling that found it was substantially responsible for flooding that caused an estimated €90 million of damage in Cork when it released water from its dams in the Lee Valley in 2009.

The ruling by Mr Justice Max Barrett in the High Court earlier this week that the ESB was 60 per cent responsible for €20 million worth of damage in UCC has left the company exposed to hundreds of other claims, totalling tens of millions of euro.

After taking legal advice, the ESB has decided to appeal Mr Justice Barrett’s ruling, as it believes the company prevented worse flooding in Cork by its actions on the night of November 19th, 2009.


ESB chief executive Pat O’Doherty said while the company acknowledged the case involved many complex technical and legal issues, it was disappointed with the judgment.


“ESB fully defended this case because we believed and continue to believe that our operation of the dams complies with best international practice and with our statutory duties,” he said in a statement.

Heavy rains had led to flooding in the Lee Valley and the ESB argued it had to increase discharge levels at Inniscarra dam to 535 cubic metres a second to avoid uncontrolled flooding as water was entering the catchment at 800 cubic metres a second.

The unprecedented discharge led to heavy flooding of the west side of Cork city, with flood waters engulfing the Carrigrohane Straight, the Western Road, the Mardyke and much of the Marsh area all the way down to Washington Street and the Grand Parade in the city centre.


Mr Justice Barrett found against the company following a 104-day hearing of an action for €20 million in damages sought by UCC. The action was brought on behalf of its insurance company, Aviva.

Confirming the decision to appeal the ruling, Mr O’Doherty said over its history, the ESB dams at Inniscarra and Carrigadrohid 13km and 30km upstream of Cork city had greatly reduced the impact of severe floods on the city.

“It was established in court and accepted by all that this was also the case during the 2009 flooding. The ESB staff on the night worked tirelessly to protect Cork from the worst impact of the flooding.”

UCC declined to comment on the ESB confirmation of its decision to appeal, but solicitor Joe Noonan, who has initiated legal actions for some 40 or so residents of the Lee Valley affected by the flooding, expressed disappointment at the ESB decision.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times