Monday 5 December 2016

Safety review rules out Skellig Michael fencing

Anne Lucey

Published 31/05/2010 | 05:00

A safety review of Skellig Michael has rejected calls for a fence to be erected along the cliff path in the wake of the deaths of two tourists who fell from the rock.

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Visitors to the monastic settlement on the Co Kerry island will in future be better warned about safety dangers but they will not be protected by a new system of fencing.

A review of safety for the Office of Public Works (OPW) has found that a lack of awareness about the site is in itself a "serious hazard" to visitors.

The monastery, a UNESCO world heritage site, is perched on a rock 218 metres (714ft) above sea level.

The safety review found that access to Skellig Michael was "a mountaineering activity", akin to a specific category known as "scrambling" in which the hands are used to provide balance.

One of the deaths last year occurred when there was no official OPW presence on the island and the site had not yet officially opened for the season, the report said.

The report made 31 recommendations. Despite the recent tragic deaths, the report found that the OPW management of the complex wilderness and monastic site was good.

Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, managers of the site said yesterday.

There are several locations along the climb that present a high risk of a fall, the report has found. However, it says no fencing should be erected, a contentious issue from the point of view of conservation.

It also recommends there be a single departure point for the Skellig boats so that there is a central point to warn visitors before the sea journey.

Terrain

The slope to the sixth century hermitage, which is partly lined with steps, is steeper than much higher mountains, the terrain more rugged and the surface less forgiving.

The review and its recommendations has been accepted by the minister with responsibility for the OPW, Dr Martin Mansergh, a spokesman said.

About 10,000 people visit the Skellig annually and over the past 40 years there have been about 400,000 visits to the island which is described on the world heritage list as "a unique example which illustrates, as no other site can, the extremes of Christian monasticism".

Irish Independent

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