Islanders TV series gives lifeline to our remotest outposts
Three of Ireland's remotest islands are enjoying a surge in tourist numbers after they featured in a popular documentary series. The far-flung outposts of Inishturk, Whiddy and Arranmore - which all feature in TV3's Islanders - have all suffered declining populations over the past few decades.
Mary Heanue, Inishturk's development officer, said she was confident the series - the biggest in-house production ever undertaken by TV3 producers - would transform the fortunes of her beloved Co Mayo outcrop.
With a population which has plummeted to just 58 in recent times, and just three pupils attending the windswept isle's once busy national school, Inishturk's survival is hanging in the balance.
But Ms Heanue, who runs a guesthouse on the isolated isle, said: "There have been a lot more enquiries from people and bookings in the B&Bs since the series started. I even had a call from a person the other day, who is interested in moving full-time to the island with their family, and rang me to find out more. They'd seen what a beautiful and safe place this is and were very impressed by our community.
"We'd be delighted to welcome families here, because our population is falling."
Representatives on little-known Whiddy island, off Co Cork, also said the series - which took TV crews almost a year to make - had given their disappearing 24-strong community a lifeline.
Tim O'Leary, one of two charismatic brothers who feature in the series, said: "Many people seem to know about Whiddy. We've only a couple of self-catering houses on the island, but bookings are already up in those thanks to the TV series." Meanwhile, Seamus Boyle, who runs Arranmore Ferry Service [one of the two ferry services] to the large Irish-speaking Co Donegal island, said he was quietly confident of a busy summer season ahead.
He said: "This is a beautiful part of the world. All the footage will definitely do us good and I'd be positive that visitor numbers will increase because of it." A TV3 spokesperson said the first three episodes of Islanders reached a total of 697,100 viewers. The series finale airs on Wednesday.