Monday 29 May 2017

Islanders should not be stonewalled on Aer Arann row

A view over Inis Meáin, one of the Aran Islands. There has been controversy over the decision to replace the islands' fixed-wing air service with a new helicopter service based far from the mainland coast on the east side of Galway city
A view over Inis Meáin, one of the Aran Islands. There has been controversy over the decision to replace the islands' fixed-wing air service with a new helicopter service based far from the mainland coast on the east side of Galway city

David Williams

There can be few more beautiful places in Ireland than Inis Meáin this morning. I am standing in warm sunlight on the top of Dún Chonchúir, an ancient pre-Christian fort. Like all forts, it was built to be defensive and it was positioned on a slight elevation right in the centre of this flat island so that the inhabitants could look out and see friends and foes alike coming and going in Galway Bay.

The fort is made up of tens of thousands of pieces of cut limestone neatly arranged on top of each other. It's extraordinary to think this was built here 2,000 years ago. Dún Chonchúir was built in exactly the same way as the hundreds of stonewalls on this island which quite apart from dividing up the tiny holdings, offer the only protection from the winter Atlantic gales.

Geologically, the island is one giant criss-crossed limestone pavement. It is essentially a bit of the Burren sticking out of the Atlantic. Limestone is a soft rock and it breaks if you hit it hard enough with something harder. The neat stone slabs of the fort and every individual stone wall was made by dropping huge granite boulders, imported from Connemara, on hundreds of different limestone slabs.

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