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State nears deal for Conor Pass in Co Kerry

The parties are working on the basis the property will be taken into the ownership of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to be developed and managed for tourism

The Government is close to a deal to buy the scenic Conor Pass in Co Kerry, months after its American owner sought €10 million for mountain grazing land, forestry and lakes high over Dingle.

A draft agreement has yet to be settled definitively but the parties are working on the basis that the property will be taken into the ownership of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to be developed and managed for tourism.

“Things are going in the right direction,” said Minister for Education Norma Foley, the Kerry TD who has pressed for the State to buy the lands for a new national park. “It’s very positive and promising.”

One of Ireland’s highest mountain crossings, the narrow twisting roadway through the Conor Pass runs for 12km between Dingle town and Kilmore Cross on the north of the Dingle Peninsula. The lands, comprising 1,400 acres, are noted for spectacular mountain scenery and natural beauty. With sweeping valley views, the glaciated landscape is popular with tourists, walkers and cyclists.


There was no comment from Michael Noonan, the US-based owner who bought the property in parcels over several years and has farmed it grazing sheep. Overlooking Brandon Bay, the lands comprise about 1,000 acres of grazing land, some 400 acres of forestry and three lakes: Lough Atlea, Lough Beirne and Peddlar’s Lake.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government was interested in buying the lands but only at a “reasonable price” and would not pay €10 million.

The price under discussion has not been disclosed, although a final deal is said to be close.

Ms Foley said: “Darragh O’Brien, the Minister for Housing, is very positively disposed to this. It would be a significant acquisition for the State and a hugely significant acquisition for Kerry and for Kerry tourism.”

The Dingle Peninsula is designated under the EU birds directive as a special protection area for rare and vulnerable species.

At a November meeting of the Oireachtas committee on climate action, National Parks and Wildlife Service director general Niall Ó Donnchú said the body was “well aware” of the Conor Pass and its nature value. “It is designated and we are looking at that, with a number of other opportunities,” he told the committee.

“Areas of high nature value come on the market quite often. We are always interested in areas of high nature value but we do not do our negotiating in public.”

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Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times