MINISTER of State for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works, Brian Hayes, visited Scattery Island last Friday.
Minister Hayes offered support to the Scattery Island Heritage and Development Group, which has submitted a proposal to the Office of Public Works (OPW) relating to the restoration of the Napoleonic battery on the island.
“The project will restore the battery to its former glory, making it an iconic structure on the island. The restoration of the building and the surrounding areas by clearing over-growth and creating safe access for use by visitors will complement the island’s monastic settlement by means of an additional tourist attraction,” the group’s proposal stated.
Minister Hayes said, “I am aware that the group has an initial programme of works proposal that has been submitted, which was put together by Diarmuid Whelan and Councillor Ian Lynch. It is an excellent proposal with a phased approach to the works. You have not tried to put your hands around the whole island but have approached the task in a step-by-step approach. The inclusion of Clare County Council and the Burren Wild Life Project is an excellent use of resources and information.
“While I cannot give you exact details today, I see this as a worthy project and I will give you a commitment that I will contact the OPW management and we will sit down and see how we can work together to ensure the islands continued preservation and development.
“I will give a commitment that I will arrange a meeting with OPW staff and I will return with positive details by the third week in September. We can then sit down and make arrangements for plans going forward,” he added.
Last month, the Scattery Island Heritage and Development Group organised a Gathering event, which was well attended. Group member, Kilrush town councillor Ian Lynch, then invited Minister Hayes to visit the island, while he was on holiday in Ennistymon.
Pádraig Ó Ruairc, OPW supervisor for the Scattery Island Visitor Centre, gave the minister a guided tour of the island, where he was presented with a wealth of information.
Speaking on the island, Minister Hayes said, “The OPW has invested deeply throughout the years in the island. This is evident from the good condition of the grounds and the high level of care taken by the OPW staff. The level of investment in Scattery is quite high and in order to maintain this, we continue to invest in Scattery by ensuring the allocation of staff and guides.”
He said that in his role as minister for the OPW, he had launched a Community Initiative Scheme.
“I am delighted to see that the Scattery Island Heritage and Development group has taken this scheme on board and this is an example of what can be done with community input and involvement. While the OPW has invested in projects like Scattery Island, due to the times we live in, it is becoming increasingly harder to find funds. The only way forward is by ensuring local community initiatives. The development group has already proven their commitment to the project. Bringing over 1,000 visitors to the island is an achievement in itself,” Minister Hayes stated.
“One of our first priorities is to clear the battery and expose the marvel of the structure,” Councillor Ian Lynch told The Clare Champion.
“We hope this will be the first step in the development, with roof access to create a viewing tower as the next phase, all of which preserve the heritage and increase the tourist product. We have looked at achievable projects that can be taken on by the community that will enhance the island.
“Another one of these is to reopen the main street of the village. This is currently closed due to the unstable condition of the buildings but we propose to create a safe passageway through the street, which will allow visitors to experience the village and what the village may have looked like previously,” he added.
Scattery Island Heritage and development group is an action group set up in September 2012. One of the main aims of the group is to improve the present appearance of Scattery Island and preserve its buildings and heritage.
The group also aims to promote the island’s rich cultural and historical significance, in order to increase visitor numbers to the island.