I reported in detail the two battles which the people of Valentia fought against the Department of Transport and the Coast Guard to prevent the closure of the Coastal Radio Station on the Kerry island.
Valentia is fortunate to be linked by a bridge to the mainland, but has still suffered from emigration and deprivation which neglect by the State can cause to isolated communities.
I have a great respect for island people. They have to overcome difficulties and obstacles in their daily lives that those living ashore will not encounter.
Those battles and, at the same time, that of the people of Malin at the other end of the country, to prevent the closure of the Malin Head Coastal Radio Station came to my mind in the context of a technological development which changed the world and started in Valentia.
The Department, of which the Coast Guard is part - an indication of the unfortunate dispersal of maritime matters amongst too many Government Departments in Ireland - wanted to centralise operations in Dublin. In the course of my reportage, I discovered that their proposed location was in the constituency of their then Minister. Curious! Another proposed retrenchment from the regions into Dublin. There was little to justify the plan.
The people of Valentia mounted a particularly strong case against the proposal, backed by research and technological facts. Malin also produced a strong case. I wonder about the attitude of officials based in Dublin who come up with proposals like this.
These topics came up for discussion again when I attended the 150th anniversary of the laying of the first successful TransAtlantic communications cable from Valentia to Newfoundland. The laying of the cable began on July 13, 1886 when the biggest ship in existence at the time, the Great Eastern, sailed from Valentia. It arrived in Newfoundland on July 27, 1886 having laid 2,000 miles of cable weighing 9,800 tons across the Atlantic.
“The Valentia cable of 1866 changed the world,” writes Dr. Donard de Cogan in his book - ‘They talk along the deep,’ the story of cable history which was launched at the island ‘cable festival.’ “To put a cable across the ocean in the 19th century was cutting edge. These people were stretching beyond the technology of that time.” So says Bernard S.Finn. Curator Emeritus of the Electricity Collections at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, Washington D.C.
In this edition of my programme, I talk to Anthony O’Connell, Director of Valentia Island Development Company, about the island community’s attempts to gain UNESCO recognition for the island as a World Heritage Site, a case based on the technological breakthrough which started there. Ireland has only two out of 1,000 World Heritage Sites in Europe. England, Spain and Italy have between 30 to 40 World Heritage sites each! It is a revelation to hear of the extensive research and campaign work done by the people of Valentia.
On reflection, the Department of Transport and Coast Guard were unwise to take on the people of Valentia!
• Listen to the programme above