Habitation of Cork islands 'under threat'

 

A NEW report on west Cork islands, to be published today, warns that the permanent, year-round habitation of some islands is “clearly under threat”.

It recommends the development of projects such as inter-island sea kayaking and walks, innovative “island-specific” housing, “branded” food products, multi-island ferry tickets and co-operative approaches to farming, fishing and aquaculture.

The report’s remit was to examine the physical, economic, social and cultural development of Oileán Chléire, Bere, Whiddy, Dursey, Long, Sherkin and Heir islands over the next decade.

The report, which is due to be published by Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey in Bantry, Co Cork, today, recommends an integrated development strategy which takes a “partnership” approach and the establishment of a “community council” structure representing all islands in the area.

It highlights new approaches already taken by some island communities to employment, such as the Dublin Institute of Technology visual arts degree programme which is hosted on Sherkin island. The additional students boost the island’s population of 106.

The report, compiled by RPS Consultants, acknowledges that the islands make a “strong contribution to the quality of life, economy and vibrancy of mainland west Cork and Ireland as a whole”.

However, it notes that “many national policies are developed in terms of a larger community and are not always island-proofed”.

It says most of the island communities mainly work “independently of each other”. It points to clear national and international evidence that being part of an “island group”, such as the Orkneys in Scotland, can “raise the profiles of islands” and allow communities to tackle common issues together.

The report says there is a “clear link” between employment opportunities and service provision, and says small initiatives can have a large impact.

It acknowledges a “significant improvement” in providing subsidised ferry services, with 18 islands now benefiting, and Dursey island accessible via cable car.

However, ferry services could still be a “contentious issue” due to lack of regulation of competition on routes. The report urges that contracts “continue to be awarded in an open, transparent manner, with independent involvement” and consultation.