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Displaying items by tag: Islands

An Island Housing Trust has been suggested by the Islands' Federation because of the difficulties of offshore island residents in getting housing on their own islands.

While housing has become a major public issue, the problems for island communities in this regard are not getting the same attention.

"Several families have had to give up their dream of staying on their island. Property prices are prohibitive," according to the Secretary of Comhdháil Oileán na hEireann, the Islands Federation, Rhoda Twombly.

Planning permission is the chief problem, but the increasing number of holiday homes on the islands is adding to the difficulties she said on Tom MacSweeney's Maritime Ireland radio show.

Listen to the clip below from Rhoda Twombly:

Published in Island News
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Irish offshore islands may have mixed feelings about hosting school tours, but the Department of Education says they can take place within Covid-19 guidelines.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, The department says that “educational trips” by both primary and post-primary schools are a matter for “each individual school authority”.

Transition year students visited the largest Aran island of Inis Mór on two consecutive days last week.

The transition students from Presentation College, Athenry travelled by ferry from Ros-a-Mhíl in south Connemara to Inis Mór, and hired bikes on the island.

All activity on the island was outdoors, with students wearing masks, and cycling, swimming and sending a postcard home, the principal said. The students took a picnic with them.

The school enjoys a close relationship with the Aran Islands, and sent first-year pupils in four separate groups to the Aran Islands during the first term of 2020, the school confirmed.

These first-year trips are designed as a familiarisation exercise, and as an educational experience of an Irish-speaking community, the school explained.

In a statement, the Department of Education said it has “published guidance for schools that provide various teaching and learning approaches, including bringing pupils/students outdoors and to local amenities to enhance learning, support social distancing, promote physical activity and help positive wellbeing”.

“Decisions in relation to educational trips are a matter for each individual school authority and it is the responsibility of each school authority to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place while pupils/students are participating in school trips and that all such activities are in line with public health guidelines,”a department spokesman said.

However, there has been some confusion among schools, and it is understood that the education unions met department officials last week and raised concerns about the "lack of clarity" in the wording of the guidelines.

Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, the Irish Island Federation, said that once school tours were to islands within the same county and within current guidelines, its members have no issue.

“Mayo pupils can visit Mayo islands, Galway pupils can visit Galway islands, since county-wide travel has been permitted,” federation secretary Rhoda Twombly said.

However, businesses are still very restricted on many of the islands, she pointed out.

Most offshore islands were restricted to “essential visits” only during several phases of the Covid-19 lockdown from Spring 2020.

Early last year, a vote by residents on the Aran islands was overwhelmingly in favour of restricting visits – at the expense of tourist revenue.

When the National Public Health Emergency Team’s approved an early lifting of travel restrictions from June 29th last year, island communities were thrown into confusion – having planned for a re-opening on August 10th.

In Mayo, the island of Inishturk opted to keep guesthouses closed and host day-trips only.

The cautious approach largely paid off, with only one or two cases on some islands.

However, relaxation of national restrictions over Christmas resulted in an outbreak on Mayo’s Clare island, with 20 positive cases reported in January.

Large numbers of elderly and vulnerable island residents have now been vaccinated, as the roll-out of vaccines continues on offshore communities.

Read The Times here

Published in Island News
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Four west coast islands received Air Corps helicopter delivery of Covid-19 vaccinations yesterday as part of a plan to vaccinate all residents over 70 years of age together.

As Times. ie reports today, general practitioners on the Aran Islands and the Donegal island of Arranmore welcomed the move which allows more vulnerable residents to be vaccinated on the islands.

Fears had been expressed about the impact on elderly and vulnerable islanders who might have been otherwise forced to make several ferry journeys to mainland health centres when vaccines became available.

The supplies of the Moderna vaccine were flown to the Aran islands primary cares centres and Arranmore from Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, west Dublin yesterday.

Aran island GP Dr Marion Broderick, based on Inis Mór, welcomed the decision to treat all over 70 years olds as one cohort.

There are an estimated 130 people over 70 years of age on Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran islands with a population of 800.

“The islands are not looking to jump any queue, and those over 85 will be vaccinated first,” she said.

Residents of the island’s community nursing home have already received their vaccines.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” former fisherman and basket maker Vincent McCarron (73) on Inis Mór said

Arranmore GP Dr Kevin Quinn said that there are some 155 people over 70 years of age on the Donegal island, out of a population of some 480 people.

“That’s a third of the island, and it is great that these people will be offered the vaccine here,” Dr Quinn said.

Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, the Irish Island Federation, also welcomed the development and paid tribute to the Health Service Executive and authorities.

There are about 3,000 people living on islands around the Irish coast.

Two former island ministers – Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív and Fine Gael senator Sean Kyne, both in the Galway West constituency – had called in the past week for offshore communities to be treated as a separate cohort for logistical and safety reasons.

The HSE said that "work is also ongoing to ensure that all remaining islands and remote locations are appropriately addressed" and "special arrangements have already been put in place to provide the vaccine to over 35 remote rural practices over the coming days".

Read more in Times.ie here

Published in Island News
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Island residents should be given group vaccinations in their communities rather than on the mainland, Éamon Ó Cuív has said.

As Times.ie reports today, the Galway West Fianna Fáil TD, who was minister for rural and Gaeltacht affairs from 2002 to 2010, said islanders should be treated as cohorts for “logistical and safety reasons”, he said.

The issue was raised by Aran island general practitioner (GP) Dr Marion Broderick who said that there were serious risks in asking elderly island residents to travel to the mainland if they were expected to.

There are about 3,000 residents on 20 inhabited offshore islands around the coast.

Éamon Ó Cuív TDÉamon Ó Cuív TD

Many islands have a high proportion of elderly and vulnerable residents, most of whom have not left the islands since the first lockdown last March, Dr Broderick pointed out.

Due mainly to severe limitations on travel, there have been only isolated cases of the virus on most islands - apart from Mayo’s Clare island where about 20 positive cases were reported last month.

Residents in the Aran island community nursing home on Inis Mór have received their first round of vaccines, but the island also has over 100 residents aged over 70.

Mr Ó Cuív said he had informed the Health Service Executive (HSE) that it “does not make sense to revisit such an inconvenient location several times, for small numbers each time, as the vaccine is rolled out to different age cohorts and risk- groups in turn”.

He said there were also weather factors in relation to sea travel at this time of year, and ferry sailings are limited in the winter season. 

Read more on Times.ie here

Published in Island News
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Using green hydrogen to supply island energy needs is the theme of several projects which Irish offshore communities and universities are involved in.

A consortium of Irish islands led by Kerry’s Valentia Island Co-op and Rathlin, Co Antrim is examining the feasibility of combining offshore wind with electrolyser technology to convert water to hydrogen.

The Aran islands are involved in this and several parallel projects, including work at NUI Galway (NUIG).

Researchers at the NUIG Ryan Institute Energy Research Institute are collaborating in a five-year project that will generate, distribute and use at least 300 tonnes of hydrogen per year produced from solar energy on the Balearic island of Mallorca.

The NUIG team involving Dr Pau Farràs Costa, Dr Rory Monaghan and Dr Thomas van Rensburg say it will reduce CO2 emissions by 20,000 tonnes per year.

The project will embed green hydrogen in the island’s whole energy system, from solar power generators which will produce the hydrogen, to gas grid operators which will distribute it and to bus operators, vehicle rental firms, homes, businesses and hotels using it for power, heat and mobility, they state.

The NUIG team will assess the economic impacts of the green hydrogen on Mallorca, as well as on other island communities involved in the project, including the Aran Islands.

“Green Hysland will be the first opportunity to demonstrate how green hydrogen holds the key to island decarbonisation and energy independence,” Dr Farràs Costa, of NUIG’s School of Chemistry, said.

Green Hysland - Deployment of a hydrogen ecosystem on the island of Mallorca is being supported with €10 million of European Commission funding, along with investments by partners of up to €50 million.

Published in Island News
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Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has come to the rescue of Donegal islanders with fishing boats registered in Northern Ireland who were blocked from landing into their nearest port by the Brexit deal.

Northern Irish vessels and boats owned by fishermen in the Republic which are on the British register were informed that they could only land into two designated ports - Killybegs, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork – after January 1st.

The State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) had recently initiated an investigation into “unauthorised” landings into Greencastle, Co Donegal.

However, Mr McConalogue says he has arranged for vessels on the British register to land into five additional ports - Greencastle, Burtonport and Rathmullan in Donegal, Ros-a-Mhíl in Galway and Howth in Co Dublin.

He said he was “ working to make sure the necessary notifications and requirements are in place to have these ports operational from Monday, February 1st”.

Under the new designations, Ros a Mhíl and Howth will be able to accommodate landings of demersal (whitefish) catch from vessels under 24 metres, Monday to Friday from 10 am to 10 pm.

Greencastle, Rathmullen and Burtonport will be designated for non-quota species landings from vessels under 18 metres and will operate from 2 pm to 8 pm from Monday to Friday, he said.

These designated hours are due to the need for oversight by the SFPA, he said.

He described it as “an important decision which will allow fishers in small vessels to continue their livelihoods in a safe manner”.

“Following Brexit, it is important now more than ever, to support our fishers and fishing communities and to do all we can do help them continue their livelihoods,” Mr McConalgoue said.

He said that any UK Northern Ireland registered boats landing into any of the seven Irish ports will have to comply with additional documentary and more procedural requirements than before Brexit.

The SFPA had confirmed last week in response to queries about its investigations that UK registered fishing vessels, including those vessels which are registered to addresses in Northern Ireland, are subject to new EU fisheries and food safety controls”.

These “reflect the UK’s status now as a third country,” the SFPA said.

It confirmed Killybegs and Castletownbere as the only two ports allowed to continue to receive landings under two separate designations - the Illegal, Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated – Third Country (IUU-TC) designation and North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) regulations.

The development prompted calls last week by a Northern Irish fish industry executive for “Dublin to reciprocate” an arrangement where all seven Northern Irish ports are still open to vessels on the Republic’s register.

The west Cork vessel Rachel Jay was first Irish vessel since the Brexit regulations came into force to land into Lisahally in Derry with mackerel caught off the Scottish coast.

Alan McCulla of the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation said that while he welcomed the Rachel Jay and other Irish landings, he questioned why “when Belfast saw this coming, Dublin did not”.

“The Northern Irish authorities were able to take measures to keep our ports open to Irish vessels, “he said, adding that “the EU still rules Ireland’s waves”.

Under legislation which was controversially amended in 2019, Northern Irish vessels can fish within the Republic’s six-mile limit – but the legislation does not provide for landing.

The Sea Fisheries Amendment Act 2019 formalised in law a “voisinage” agreement which had existed between the Republic and Northern Ireland since the 1960s, and which was challenged by Greencastle fisherman Gerard Kelly.

Published in Fishing
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Ireland’s “blue economy” and the opportunities for Gaeltacht communities will be debated at a marine “webinar” hosted by State agency Udarás na Gaeltachta on Thursday to mark world maritime day.

Offshore renewable energy, standards for sustainable harvesting of both wild and farmed seaweed, and how to secure added value from same are among themes which will be discussed at the Lá Mara “webinar”.

A third-generation lobster fisherman and climate scientist will outline how community, culture, the coast and climate change have equal importance on the infamous islands of Maine, USA, in “crafting a roadmap for further developing Maine’s economy”.

Hosted by Údarás na Gaeltachta, Lá Mara is in its second year, following its first such event at Páirc na Mara in Cill Chiaráin, south Connemara, in 2019.

The State agency says that “uncertain times have brought into sharp focus the importance of the marine industry and its vital role for Irish and Gaeltacht communities”.

“The sustainability of vital natural resources that have sustained and nourished Irish communities deserve significant attention and innovation. Within one generation, life on the coast of Ireland has changed from not just nourishing a household but to one that can generate a decent living and a thriving and sustainable business,” it says.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, September 24th 2020 from 12.00 – 16.30 and those who wish to attend can register here

Published in News Update

Government responsibility for offshore islands has been transferred to the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The islands had previously been within the brief held by the recently reconstituted Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht.

Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys announced an allocation of €370,000 in island improvement works when she welcomed the formal transfer of responsibility to her department.

Islands to benefit from the funding are Cléire, Heir Island and Sherkin Island in Cork; Inishbofin and Árainn (Inis Mór) in Galway; and Árainn Mhór in Donegal.

Works to be undertaken with the funding being announced today include resurfacing of roads, repairs to sea walls and slipways, and work on damaged coastal defences, Ms Humphreys confirmed.

“The Government’s ambition is to ensure that our offshore islands continue to support sustainable and vibrant communities and that visitors have an opportunity to experience and appreciate the unique culture, heritage and environmental richness the islands have to offer,”Ms Humphreys said.

The new Programme for Government commits to a policy for island development.

“The issues affecting our islands are similar to those in the rest of rural Ireland, whether they relate to employment opportunities, access to services, or the social and economic impact of COVID-19. That is why the Taoiseach decided to assign responsibility for the islands to the Department of Rural and Community Development,” she said.

“The integration of the islands function under the remit of my department will ensure a more integrated and cohesive approach to the development of rural and community policy for the people living on the islands and for their economies,” she added.

The €370,000 in grants are additional to €700,000 which was already approved this year under the small capital grants scheme, she noted.

Published in Island News
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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on all Irish parties in the EU to support her amendment calling for funding for Irish islands in the European Parliament tomorrow.

The Ireland South MEP made the call for cross-party support for our islands ahead of tomorrow's plenary vote on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

"I am calling for all Irish political parties not just to support this amendment, which will give vital support to our struggling island communities, but to lobby their own political groups within the European Parliament to support it as well," she said.

"My amendment would allow the EU to finance 85% of operations to the Irish islands with the Irish exchequer footing just 15% of the bill.

"Worryingly, while this amendment was accepted when I first raised it at committee level, Fianna Fail's European group, ALDE, have now requested it be voted on separately tomorrow as they intend to oppose it.

"Post Brexit, Ireland and the Irish islands will be one of the most geographically isolated parts of the EU. Our islands will require all the support they can get and this amendment can help ensure they aren't allowed to deteriorate further.

"Fianna Fail must speak up against their group's decision and demand that they drop their opposition to this vital amendment. It is long past time Fianna Fail started putting their country ahead of their party.

"For ALDE or any other political group to vote against support for some of the most isolated islands and regions in the EU would be a slap in the face to the people of Ireland.

“I am making the same call to Fine Gael and their European group, the EPP, as well as to Labour and their group the S&Ds, to support this amendment protecting rural, coastal and island communities in Ireland.

"Tomorrow we will see if these parties intend to use their influence in the European Parliament to represent Ireland's interests in Europe or are they merely Europe's representatives in Ireland."

Published in Island News
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#Coastal - Ireland's coastal islands offer some astounding vistas, as this breathtaking video from the Smithsonian Channel shows perfectly.

The clip from the American TV channel's Sky View series sweeps high above the Aran Islands to highlight the rugged beauty of the west coast, from the skeletal shipwrecks to the rocky shores to the veins of stone walls across the green landscape.

It's easy to see why the Wild Atlantic Way is such a draw for tourists, but let's not ignore the bounty of the east coast either, as the Irish Independent highlights the New York Times' celebration of Dublin Bay's world-class views for "little more than the cost of a pint".

Cited as "one of the most beautiful views in the world" in that tribute is the vista as seen from Howth Head, from where one has a perfect 'eye-catching' view of the enthralling Ireland's Eye.

The tiny island, with its prominent Martello tower, is less than a mile from the North Dublin fishing village, and doesn't even seem that far from the end of the pier.

But as Conor Pope reports in The Irish Times, it "may as well be on a different planet", describing a place full of mystery, history – and even murder.

Meanwhile, off the southwest coast there's another tiny rock with its own storied past that's about to take on a whole new relevance to fans of the Star Wars saga.

BBC News reports on Skellig Michael, the island "that links Irish monks and Jedi knights" after filming took place last year for the hotly anticipated movie The Force Unleashed.

The island is already a popular spot for visitors, but could soon welcome many more – with lightsabers in tow!

Published in Coastal Notes
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