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Access dilemma for Scattery Island

WHILE plans are being put in place to expand the visitor and tourism potential of Scattery Island off Kilrush, it has emerged that regularly accessing the island is proving very difficult.

At an event at Kilrush Marina on Tuesday, to mark the publication of an Office of Public Works (OPW) booklet on the 186-acre monastic settlement, Minister of State Simon Harris acknowledged that there is an access issue and appealed for solutions.

Frank Shalvey of the OPW revealed that tour guides are regularly left on the island, without any visitors to guide.

“We had 40 visiting days on Scattery so far, up until today. On 14 of those 40 days, there was no boat access. That’s a third of visitor capacity, yet on those 14 days our guides were out there waiting for visitors.

“Boat access is possible. It’s not insurmountable and any ideas that could be put forward locally to help us to improve that, I’d be delighted to hear them,” Mr Shalvey told the gathering.

Minister Harris accepted that there is an access issue.
“The OPW last year went out for tender for a boat operator. My understanding is that ultimately one person applied. Obviously, if the local community have more ideas on how we could make it more accessible, we’d be very eager to hear that. Accessibility is
absolutely crucial,” he stressed.

On a broader note, Minister Harris maintained that the OPW has taken proactive steps to help increase the profile of Scattery Island.

“We have funded the publication of this new booklet. The second thing we’ve done is we’re maintaining the monuments that are within our care and I think the group would acknowledge, they are being maintained very strongly. The third thing is that reintroducing
grazing animals will make a significant difference to improving the maintenance of the island.

That’s something that the Scattery Island Heritage and Development Group looked for and I’m delighted we’ve been able to facilitate that.

“The message from here is very clear; let’s bring Clare County Council, the heritage group and the OPW together. For example, the signage might be the responsibility of Clare County Council but if they’d like a contribution from the OPW, we’re very open to making a contribution,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen said that additional practical steps, to upgrade and maintain the island’s appearance, are
also planned.

“Following today’s meeting, it was agreed that the local committee would work in conjunction with the OPW as part of a pilot project to remove briars and clear overgrown areas, which had taken hold over the years. The completion of this work will open up pathways
and make monuments more accessible on the islands. They are also to look at putting some animals on the island, as well as discussing the options for improving and promoting a regular ferry service to Scattery,” Deputy Breen said.

Councillor Gabriel Keating predicted that Scattery Island could eventually rival Loop Head Lighthouse for visitor numbers.
“Our strategy is to have a regular ferry service and to reconstruct the fishing village, clear the scrub and have a look at the Battery end, where there is a pier already. I believe that if we make progress on this, it could be another Loop Head,” he said.

Peter O’Connell

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