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The challenges for the economies of Ireland’s offshore islands in a “post-COVID world” will be discussed with a number of contributors at a “virtual summit” next Wednesday (Sept 2).

Comdháil Oileáín na hÉireann, the Irish Island Federation, is supporting the free “webinar”, hosted by Dr Noirín Burke of the Irish Ocean Literacy Network and Trish Hegarty of Inis Communications in Donegal.

As Afloat previously reported, The “webinar” is Ireland’s “virtual hub event” for the second global Virtual Island Summit, involving over 100 island communities, from September 7th to 13th.

“Islanders work hard to maintain their economies, stay connected and create a sustainable future, something that has been extra challenging this year with Covid-19,” Dr Burke says.

Ms Hegarty says the event will explore how islands connect “to each other, to the mainland and to other islands across Europe and the world”.

Islanders working in enterprise, economic and community development and other experts working with island communities in areas like energy, sustainability, technology and connectivity will participate.

Irish Island Federation secretary Rhoda Twombly noted that her members are “more than used to connecting online” because of their physical distance and separation from the mainland.

“But in this time of social distancing and such an uncertain future, it’s more important than ever to strengthen our national and global connections to learn from each other’s experiences,”she said.

Contributors to the event include Virtual Island Summit founder and “Forbes Top 30 under 30” innovator James Ellsmoor; Ms Twombly and John Walsh of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann and the European Small Islands Federation; Cathy Ní Ghóill, manager of Comharchumann Forbartha Arann; and Máirtín Ó Méalóid, manager of Cape Clear Island Cooperative and Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann vice-chair.

Also contributing are award-winning Mayo-based journalist Áine Ryan, who is interested in issues affecting rural and peripheral communities; University College, Cork researcher Dr Sarah Robinson, who is working with island communities on Bere, Sherkin and Cape Clear to establish community radio; Irish Tech News chief editor Simon Cocking; and Brendan Smith, education and public engagement officer at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in Galway.

Attendance is free but registration is essential to take part.

To register on Zoom, click here

Published in Island News
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Historial Castle Island in Roaringwater Bay off the coast of Schull, West Cork is on the market for offers in excess of €1m.

The island is located immediately east of the entrance to Schull Harbour and south-west of Horse Island. It is readily accessed from either Schull Harbour or Rossbrin Cove.

It is one of very few privately owned islands in the area.

The island, which extends to approximately 123.85 acres or c. 50.12 hectares, was home to a small community of approximately fifteen families who were last resident on the Island up to the year 1870.

A substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stagesA substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages

According to the auctioneer Dominic Daly, the ruins of the original three clusters of houses which made up the community are situated in three distinct locations the first at the pier where the original O’Mahony Castle stands and the other two at each end of the island. Lazy beds can be detected near one of the clusters of houses which look out across Roaringwater Bay and onward to Fastnet lighthouse a naturally beautiful landscape. Currently, the island is in use for agricultural purposes. Tillage was undertaken there in the past. It is now used for grazing.

There is a substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages. A number of adjoining islands in Roaringwater Bay are inhabited – some with small communities (Long Island, Heir Island, Sherkin Island, Cape Clear Island) and others by single families (West Skeam Island, Horse Island).

Castle Island, Roaringwater BayCastle Island, Roaringwater Bay

Castle Island is home to one of a number of ruined O’Mahony Castles – one of a string along the coastline, all within sight of each other and sited strategically to control the waters of Roaringwater Bay and their abundant resources. The O’Mahony’s became extremely wealthy in their day, charging for fishing and fish processing facilities and for supplies and fresh water. They also formed strong alliances with the Spanish and French fishing fleet and any visitors who worked these waters an alliance that came to the attention of the English crown, which lead to the O’Mahony’s demise in the area.

It is a great opportunity for anyone interested in all water sports particularly sailing and fishing. It also benefits from the warm Gulf Stream and mild south westerly winds. The island can offer total solitude with substantial scope to develop it’s considerable amenities. There are extensive amenities in the area with multiple Harbours in Schull and Baltimore and also good shelter in Rossbin & Crookhaven as well as Cape Clear. In the far distance, the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse can be seen.

West Cork is a predominantly tourist area. It has rugged peninsulas, sandy beaches and bustling market towns. Future use of the island could be for private occupancy or tourism-related development or outdoor pursuits and/or agricultural use.

More details from auctioneer Dominic Daly here

Published in Waterfront Property
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A documentary on how Tory island’s late king Patsy Dan Rodgers led his community’s efforts to secure their rights and a study of a “maverick islander” are scheduled for Galway Film Fleadh’s online programme this weekend.

French filmmaker Loic Jourdain is screening the world premiere of his latest feature on Tory island, entitled The Tribe of Gods.

The 92-minute documentary charts how the late Patsy Dan Rodgers, then the last King of Ireland, continued to represent his community of 150 Irish-speaking islanders after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Jourdain’s company Lugh Films, South-Wind Blows and Idée Originale previously made a documentary on Donegal islander John O’Brien, entitled A turning tide in the life of man, on his efforts to retain his right to fish for wild salmon.

The Tribe of Gods has a cast of Patsy Dan Mag Ruaidhri, Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill, Liam Gallagher, Laurene Boyle and Pádraig Gráinne Duggan, was shown on Saturday, July 11th and there is a trailer below.

Galway-based filmmaker Margaretta D’Arcy and producers Finn Arden and Laurie Allen has directed A Maverick Islander, which will screen on Sunday July 12th.

Her film is a study of Seán (John) Ó Loingsigh from south Connemara, described as “a philosopher, a dreamer, a self-appointed chieftain, a failed playwright, and a minority voice”.

The film charts his efforts to “rise above the elitism associated with the game of golf” and build a golf course in the bog which might also help to keep Connemara’s islands district, Ceantar na nOileán alive.

Activist, performer and film director Margaretta D’Arcy is now in her 87th year, and is a member of Aosdána. A Maverick Islander is available on Sunday July 12th at 1200 by booking here

A trailer for The Tribe of Gods is below

Published in Island News
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The common challenges faced by island communities will be shared during the second global Virtual Island Summit which takes place in September.

Some 140 ambassadors representing some 10,000 islanders will participate in the summit online from September 7th to 13th.

The event “seeks to build digital bridges between island communities around the world, regardless of size, political status, or location,” its founder James Ellsmoor, a “Forbes 30 Under 30” entrepreneur, says.

“Islands often face similar challenges to one another but are forced to tackle them separately due to barriers created by distance, language, and culture,” he says.

"We are an island nation set on the edge of Europe, with over a dozen populated offshore islands"

National Aquarium of Ireland director of education Dr Noirín Burke, who is a team member of the Irish Ocean Literacy Network, and Inis Communications director Trish Hegarty, based in Inishowen, Co Donegal, will participate in the summit.

“We are an island nation set on the edge of Europe, with over a dozen populated offshore islands,” Ms Hegarty says.

“ This summit gives us and our offshore islanders the chance to connect with other islanders across the globe and share lessons in island innovation,” she says.

Participating ambassadors will represent island communities ranging from Ireland to Öland in Sweden, from to Fiji to Jamaica to Hawai’i and Tierra del Fuego in Chile.

For more information, visit the Island Innovation website here

Published in Island News
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Gales over the weekend have cushioned the impact of full re-opening of offshore islands to visitors as COVID-19-related restrictions are eased.

However, there has been a steady increase in traffic to the Aran islands, served currently by one ferry from Ros-a-Mhíl in Galway to all three islands.

Ros-a-Mhíl company Island Ferries requires passengers to wear masks. However, Comhar Caomhán Teo, the Inis Oírr co-op, has asked the Government to sanction resumption of the subsidised ferry to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr as this would allow for greater social distancing.

Former Gaeltacht and Island minister Sean Kyne - now a senator - had argued for a phased re-opening of all islands on public health grounds, stating he had received compelling medical advice from island doctors.

He had opposed the advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which had cleared visits to offshore islands from all parts of Ireland from June 29th.

Several days before the announcement, Inis Oírr said that 92 per cent of its residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

There has been one confirmed case of Covid-19 to date on the largest island of Inis Mór, with a population of 800 people. All three Aran islands have had water rationing over the last couple of months, with night-time restrictions on two islands only eased last week.

Two Co Clare-based ferry companies offering seasonal day trips to the Aran islands and Cliffs of Moher did not sail to the two smaller islands last week due to the residents’ concerns.

Mr Bill O’Brien of Doolin Ferry Company, which has three vessels with capacity for almost 600 passengers in total, said he had received an email from the Inis Oírr co-op after its vote, asking his company to respect the wishes of the islanders.

“We said we’d do that, but we are hoping in a week or two that this might change,” Mr O’Brien said.

Doolin 2 Aran Ferries marketing manager Joan Hamilton said that it was also “respecting the wishes of the people of Inis Oírr” and had decided not to sail to Inis Meáin also as it had limited facilities and “it would not be fair to them”.

Inis Meáin businessman and owner of the internationally successful knitwear company Tarlach de Blacam said he believed the debate over the pressures of tourism on the islands was “now taking place”.

“People including my son [Ruairí de Blacam of the Inis Meáin Restaurant] have invested in quality accommodation on the three islands and that brings in more revenue than day-trippers,” he said. “This debate about sustainable tourism is taking place now all over Europe.”

Inis Mór wedding celebrant Dara Molloy said that effectively there had been a phased re-opening last week, as only one Island Ferries boat was sailing from Ros-a-Mhíl for all three islands and there had been “no big crowds”.

Meanwhile, as The Sunday Times reports today, Aran island residents have expressed anger and disappointment over a social media post – uploaded during a divisive debate over re-opening to visitors without adequate supports - which depicted them as one of the earliest primates in the human evolutionary tree.

The graphic, which has since been removed, compared “the people of Aran” to Australopithecus robustus, an extinct species dating to between 1.5 million and 2 million years old and first identified from fossil remains in South Africa.

Over a caption reading “Minister Sean Kyne says ‘Islanders are nervous about reopening after not seeing any tourists for a long number of months’,” the graphic showed five evolving primates with one arrow for “The people of Aran” pointing to the hunched Australopithecus and another for “People on the Mainland” pointing to upright Homo sapiens.

In the second graphic, a cartoon image of Mr Kyne depicted him as “Minister for Primitive People”.

Mr Kyne said he had been sent the links but had taken no action as he believed the debate had been very heated and such criticism was “part of the cut and thrust of politics”.

Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann/Irish Island Network secretary Rhoda Twombly said she understood the social media graphics posted by Inis Mór’s Óstan Arann owner Keith Madigan had been removed after criticism.

She said she would “deplore anything that denigrates any of the island population”.

Mr Madigan did not respond to requests for comment.

Read more on The Sunday Times report here

Published in Island News
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The Irish Islands Federation has called on the Government to provide “clear guidance and protocols” on the safe re-opening of islands to visitors.

The federation, Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, has also called on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to provide more detail, amid considerable concern about its decision to approve early re-opening from next Monday, as Afloat reported earlier.

In a statement today, the island federation said it had not received any written reply to submissions to State agencies, "seeking direction and supports for the offshore islands".

“The board of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, on behalf of all offshore islands is again urgently seeking clarity and guidance from the Government regarding the safe reopening and required supports,” it said.

The NPHET decision to allow travel to and from islands to resume from June 29th, announced last Friday, threw offshore communities into confusion over the weekend.

Acting Gaeltacht minister Sean Kyne says he opposes the move and believes there should be a phased approach. He says this will be considered at this Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Aran Islands, which had one confirmed case of Covid-19, has been on rationed water, and this is adding to residents’ worries if visitors are permitted.

There are also medical concerns about the elderly population’s exposure to the pandemic.

Mr Kyne said that apart from the water issue, local authorities had no time to prepare piers and public facilities and signage for an opening on June 29th.

While there has been a welcome from tourism interests, medical professionals have advised against an early opening, he said.

A survey conducted by the co-op on the Aran island of Inis Óirr last week indicated that 92 per cent of residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

Islands had originally been closed until the beginning of phase five of the Government’s Covid-19 road map and expected to open again to visitors from August 10th.

Mr Kyne said that when phase five was scrapped, he received a large number of communications from island residents and businesses, expressing opposing views about the timing of re-opening.

“I’ve sent recommendations to the Taoiseach, who has been engaging with NPHET on this issue,” Mr Kyne said.

“Unless the islands can come up with an agreed position, however, the NPHET decision is the default one,” he said.

At a special sitting of the Dail Covid-19 committee late last week, Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuiv (FF) proposed a special package of assistance to island businesses if there is later re-opening.

Published in Island News
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Gaeltacht Minister Sean Kyne says he opposes the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (NPHET) decision on an early lifting of travel restrictions to and from offshore islands.

The decision to allow travel to and from offshore islands to resume from June 29th, announced on Friday night, has thrown island communities into confusion.

There has been one case of Covid-19 on the Aran Islands, but the three islands are on water rations due to the long dry spell. There are also concerns about its elderly population’s exposure to the pandemic.

Mr Kyne said that apart from the water issue, local authorities had no time to prepare piers and public facilities and signage for an opening on June 29th.

While there has been a welcome from tourism interests, there are serious concerns among medical professionals and residents on a number of islands, he said.

A survey conducted by the co-op on the Aran island of Inis Óirr last week indicated that 92 per cent of residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann is due to hold a board meeting this morning about the issue in a bid to secure a consensus in advance of next Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

Islands had been closed until the beginning of phase five of the Government’s Covid-19 road map and expected to open again to visitors from August 10th.

Mr Kyne said that when phase five was scrapped, he received a large number of communications from island residents and businesses with opposing views about the timing of re-opening.

“I’ve sent recommendations to the Taoiseach, who has been engaging with the National Public Health Emergency Team on this issue,” Mr Kyne said.

“Unless the islands can come up with an agreed position, however, the NPHET decision is the default one,” he said.

At a special sitting of the Dail Covid-19 committee late last week, Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuiv (FF) proposed a special package of assistance to island businesses if there is later re-opening.

Published in Island News
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The Aran islanders may have a ban on visitors, but they are already critically short of drinking water. 

Irish Water and Galway County Council have introduced restrictions on water use lasting 17 hours a day on both the largest island of Inis Mór and the southernmost island, Inis Oírr.

Prolonged dry weather resulted in the first set of restrictions on April 20th, when supplies on the two islands were curtailed from 9.30 pm to 8 am daily.

The extension from 5 pm to 10 am daily is necessary to “ensure continuous daily water supply is available for residents and businesses on both islands for hygiene and other essential purposes during this continued dry spell”, Irish Water spokesman Tim O’Connor said.

Inis Oírr has suffered from long-running shortage issues, with supplementary water having to be shipped out in recent years. The three islands have had a dramatic fall-off in demand for water, since voting to shut down all tourism, including summer Irish colleges, in mid-March.

“Had we the normal level of visitors, we would be in a very serious situation now,” one Inis Mór resident noted.

“We are asking customers on both islands to be mindful of how they use water and thank them for their continuous conservation efforts to date. We would

Irish Water said it was “working at this time, with our local authority partners, contractors and others to safeguard the health and well-being of staff and the public and to ensure the continuity of drinking water and wastewater services”.

Published in Island News
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I have a great respect for those who live on our offshore islands…They are a huge part of our national culture, history and maritime tradition. To maintain island life they deserve support from all those who interact with them, both State and private. Once again, however, the Aran Islanders who live on Inish Mór are, effectively, being held to ransom in a battle between the State, the local authority in Galway and the ferry company which serves the island. Like my phraseology or not, that is the realistic assessment of the situation and I always approach such an analysis from the basis of not alone being balanced, but being fair.

The situation is highlighted in this new edition of THIS ISLAND NATION programme, by Rhoda Twombly, Secretary of Comhdháil Óileán na hÉireann, the Islands Federation.
She is, of course, addressing the situation from the point of view of the islanders when she says: “Inish Mór is facing into another Winter of uncertain ferry service. Island Ferries has stated that they will withdraw their service to the island from the 21st of November until the following 17th of March unless there is agreement between the company, the Government and Galway County Council (GCC) on levy charges at Cill Rónáin harbour. The uncertainty of ferry service has hovered over Inish Mór for the past four years and it really is time to bring a definite resolution to the matter.”

There are, I have learned in my journalistic career, not just two sides to every story, but several, depending upon the number of sides involved, but this dispute over levies in regard to improvements to the harbour at Kilronan and the paying of them as a contribution for better facilities or, on the other hand, the commitment which the State and also, perhaps, through its local authority, should make towards the physical resources of an offshore island, has been going on for far too long. It seems to have become a “hardy annual.”
I have a great respect for those who live on our offshore islands. 

I hope the ferry problem to Inish Mór will be resolved.

• Listen to Listen to Rhoda Twombly on THIS ISLAND NATION Podcast below

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – "Now, why would you say that Tom?"

And when Fionán Murphy rightly challenged me about my question, I did ask myself why I had just said:

"It's unusual, isn't it, for a boat for Norway to be built in Kerry?"

"I don't know why you would say Kerry, Tom," Fionán said back to me. "Ireland maybe, but why would you say 'Kerry'? The guy involved found us, came over to us and we have a fantastic relationship with him. He has been here for two months and he will be here with us until the boat is finished. It is a great place to do business because the Norwegian currency is very strong. To do anything in Norway costs a fortune, so they are getting great value for money here and we are still getting a good price for our product. It is a great place to do business and if we can do more business there, it will be fantastic."

It was a bright exchange which I enjoyed, because it is good for an interviewer to be challenged. I was trained in radio broadcasting in the days when the interviewee was the most important person, not the interviewer. Too much of radio now centres on the personality of the programme presenter, not the interviewee. I still believe that the interviewee is the most important part of an interview, so Fionán and myself chuckled at my gaffe and as Managing Director and the man who owns Murphy Marine Services on the Shore Road in Valentia Island and so an islander, he made a strong point about Kerry and the importance of our offshore islands. I was talking with him and other members of the island community who were making the point that the Government does not show enough commitment to Ireland's offshore islands. I interviewed Fionán about the future of the island and how his boatyard, which builds, maintains and stores boats, is going.

FIONAN_MURPHY_VALENTIA_ISLAND.jpg

Fionán Murphy of Murphy Marine Services, Valentia Island

"Our predominant thing is new builds. If we get four-to-five of those a year we would be very happy. This keeps jobs on the island and that is what we need."

Fionán is also Chairman of the island's Development Company:

"Rural Ireland is in decline and we are doing what we can, but the island needs people and people need jobs to stay here. Islands need special recognition from the Government."

Fionán tells me in the interview, which you can hear here, how he started the yard fourteen years ago and how it has developed to its present stage of building boats which are sold all over Europe and how he overcame the economic, recessionary downturn.

fishing_Vessel.jpg

A new fishing vessel built in Valentia and bound for Norway

You can hear him on this current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION, Ireland's niche maritime programme, now broadcast on seven radio stations around the country and on this website. Also on the programme, the value of maritime safety training is emphasised by the interim Chief Executive of Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Michael Keatinge, who outlines how three fishermen's lives were saved when their boat capsized off the East Coast, because they had done the BIM safety course.

There's a lot more to be heard on THIS ISLAND NATION and you can Email me direct about the programme to: [email protected] or leave a comment below.

Published in Island Nation
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