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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

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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 Power From the Sea
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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 Island News
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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 Power From the Sea

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

#islands – On Thursday, October 9, not enough TDs turned up in the Dáil to create a quorum for the business of our national Parliament. The Opposition accused the Government parties of being responsible and of showing lack of commitment to the affairs of the nation.

One of the affairs of the nation to which the Dáil shows lack of interest is the maritime sphere.

The Government is particularly culpable in this regard and is ignoring two reports which it commissioned on the maritime sphere and coastal communities.

I wrote last week about this neglect, questioning in particular the Government's dilution of maritime affairs by moving them into several departments.

This attitude is underlined by the manner in which it has refused to give time to discuss the Oireachtas Committee report on coastal and island communities which was presented to them in January of this year and the CEDRA Report which also made recommendations about maritime affairs.

The Oireachtas Committee which examined and reported on the Islands and Coastal Communities made a request for a national conference to be held by Departments with responsibilities in the maritime sphere. It also called for a debate in the Dáil and Senate on the issues it had highlighted of neglect and failures to support these communities. The Committee highlighted, amongst other issues, that State 'governance arrangements' were "not the best working model."

The Government has not given debate time nor have any of the Departments with involvement in the marine sphere done anything to organise a national conference involving those in the marine sphere to debate the issues. There were more than 30 recommendations in the report, ranging from maritime tourism to the seaweed industry.

Since the report was delivered the State company, Arramara, was sold off by Udaras na Gaeltachta. Questions have been raised about this, the sale has been subject to a lot of criticism, but there has been no Dáil or Senate debate on why another maritime resource, the property of the people of the nation, was sold to private interests. This was done despite the objections of seaweed growers who have alleged that their livelihoods were being destroyed.

Another maritime report by a Commission set up by the Government, which has been ignored since it was delivered, is the CEDRA Report (Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas) which concluded that there should be 'plan-led' development of Ireland's marine territory to support economic targets and goals set out in the Government's Ocean Wealth Plan. It challenged the Government's commitment to this plan and whether it will, as a result, be effective.

The Chairman of CEDRA, former Kerry footballer and analyst Pat Spillane, did not know that the State company, Arramara, was being sold off by Udaras na Gaeltachta when his Commission recommended that the Government must set up "a regulatory development framework for the State's seaweed sector, both wild and cultivated," which would have economic and employment prospects for national benefit.

Neither did the Chairman of the Oireachtas Fisheries Committee, Andrew Doyle, T.D., know about the Government's agreement to sell off this State company and national resource, when his Committee made a similar recommendation to that of CEDRA's.

Both of these recommendations by State-appointed review bodies, were ignored by the Government. Is this not a clear indication of disregard for the maritime sector?

There are a lot of unanswered questions about how and why this sale was carried out and the effects it will have on the seaweed industry, such as why employment and potential economic benefits were ignored, as were those for whom it provided a livelihood.

Why has this sale not been made an issue for debate in the Dáil? Where are TDs and the national media in challenging aspects of it and asking for explanations?

The public reaction of the CEDRA Chairman to the Government's lack of response to his Commission's Report, which also made recommendations, as did the Oireachtas Committee, about the development of marine tourism and marinas, suggests that the Government's real commitment, away from the public relations spin, may be lacking.

In contrast to the frustration of lack of sufficient p Government focus and commitment to the maritime sector, there is the determination of people like Caitlin Ni Aodha from Helvick in County Waterford. In January of 2012 Caitlin stood on the quayside at Union Hall in West Cork when the Tit Bonhomme trawler tragedy occurred and her husband, Michael, and members of the crew died.

CAITLIN_NI_AODHA.jpg

Caitlin Ni Aodha from Helvick in County Waterford

In the latest edition of my fortnightly half-hour radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, which you can hear here, I talk on the quayside at Howth to Caitlin as her new boat is launched, a 23-metre prawn freezer. She says that over the last few years she had learned a lot about life, about how good things happened, tragedies occurred, but life had to go on and it was important to do the best one can in life:
"People suffer tragedies, everything is not always easy. Michael and the Tit Bonhomme will be with me for ever. Every day I think of them, but I must do the very best I can with my life."

LE_SAMUEL_BECKETT.jpg

L.E.Samuel Beckett

It is not possible to maximise opportunities from the sea without a strong maritime culture. The Government and its officials could follow that approach to improve their attitude towards the fishing and marine industries. They could also listen to and benefit from hearing the determination of the man in charge of the State's newest naval vessel, Lt.Cdr.Tony Geraghty of the L.E.Samuel Beckett, on the programme. He outlines his determination to demonstrate the public the value of investment in the maritime sphere through the new ship. The ship is a positive State commitment, but the Government generally needs to do much more to show it appreciates that is responsible for the entire welfare of an island nation and to cherish all of its people equally.

Until next week, the usual wish of ..... "fair sailing" ........

Twitter: @AfloatMagazine @Tom MacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#Islands - Sea kayaking enthusiast David Walsh has published a second edition of Oileáin, his popular pictorial guide to Ireland's coastal islands, as TheJournal.ie reports.

Now featuring some 574 islands - 503 of which the author has personally landed upon - the book's selection runs from the easily accessible, such as Ireland's Eye off Howth, to the rugged and remote, like the infamous Fastnet Rock south of the Cork coast.

While Walsh provides practical advice for how readers can themselves lands on even the most challenging of these islands, the book has equal appeal to anyone curious about the many islands, big and small, that stud the Irish coastline.

TheJournal.ie has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News
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