Gript Minister for Climate and Leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan

IRL - Coastal erosion policies could put 10,000 Irish homes at risk, but are activists hampering solutions?

Last week, the government published the National Coastal Change Management Strategy to deal with loss of land due to coastal erosion, flooding and sea level rise.

The report referred to a “managed retreat” which could result in tens of thousands of home and business properties being abandoned in reaction to coastal erosion.

Fifteen recommendations are proposed by the report, however these merely state that “appropriate measures and mechanisms” have yet to be identified to assist with coastal change.

The report is the product of the Inter-Departmental Group on National Coastal Change Management Strategy and was prepared jointly by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage & the Office of Public Works (OPW).

It states that the strategy is a “difficult and complex intervention” and suggests “the State will likely be faced with an uncoordinated, reactive or emergency response to unfolding events” without a strategy. The report fails to clarify how the proposed “managed retreat” would be implemented or how  compensation or enforcement would occur. Amongst the main objectives of the report is the mission to gather more data on how to resolve coastal and flooding catastrophes.  

Image from the National Coastal Change Management Strategy showing the zones at which at-risk properties are located.

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With approximately 2 million people in Ireland living within 5km of the coast, threats from flooding and coastal erosion are a significant risk. Our wet climate and extensive river systems means flooding and related environmental crises are common in Ireland historically. The issue of coastal issues and flooding in river basins are inextricably linked. Flooding in Cork, particularly in Glanmire and Midleton, caused significant destruction in recent weeks.

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan speaking on the events in Cork acknowledged the problem isn’t “just heavy rain. It was also the fact that the groundwater conditions were very high”.

“I think as part of our adaptation plan, that’s where we’ll need a lot of work – understanding what’s happening in our river basins and having an approach looking at the source of the river right down to the sea. Not just how do we culvert, how do we wall in rivers in the middle of towns, but how do we manage the whole system,” continued Eamon Ryan.

But planning for defenses against flooding has faced significant delays, according to a Sunday Independent survey of 44 flood-relief plans being overseen by the OPW. The survey shows most schemes are behind schedule.


Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard, spoke on this issue, stating “some people are climate zealots and too anxious in worrying that everything we do is going to have a negative effect,” in reference to groups endangering plans for flood defenses by raising objections.

In Blackpool Co. Cork, a local activist group, Save Our Bride Otters, sought judicial review to stop a scheme which proposed to culvert a large part of the River Bride. The group argued it has substantial grounds for environmental reasons due to the impact this will have on local fauna and the State ceded its case.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, an OPW spokeswoman said, “ecological and archaeological issues often require in-depth analysis in order to ensure that the technical solution selected will meet the requirements of existing EU and national environmental legislation.”

“At all times, the OPW strives to expedite and progress capital flood relief works with the minimum delay within the resources available to it,” she continued.

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