Saturday 16 December 2017

Cable car cattle ban leaves islanders up in the air

Islanders Mary
O'Sullivan and Margaret Murphy yesterday
Islanders Mary O'Sullivan and Margaret Murphy yesterday
A cow in the Dursey Island cable car
The car and one of the towers

Ralph Riegel

FARMERS on a remote island have warned that a new cable car weight restriction threatens to wipe out their 2,000-year-old cattle industry.

Livestock owners on Dursey Island protested yesterday over a ban on carrying adult cattle on the island's cable car -- with the operators facing disciplinary action by Cork County Council if they fail to comply with the new directives.

Under the revised rules, which came into force on October 1, a limited number of smaller animals such as sheep and calves can still be carried -- but adult cattle will no longer be ferried to and from the mainland.

All livestock shipments on the cable car will also only be handled after the operators have received permission from the Castletownbere office of Cork Co Council.

The council insisted that, due to the age of the cable towers and new health and safety regulations, the revised weight restriction of 500kg was necessary.

But local farmer Martin Sheehan said livestock owners were astonished by the move, especially because in 42 years of carrying livestock there had never been a single accident.

At its nearest point, Dursey -- which has around 12 full-time residents and is only 6.5km long and 1.5km wide -- is about 183 metres from the Beara Peninsula in Cork but the channel in between is treacherous.

Safety

Since the cable car opened in 1969, adult cattle have been brought from the island one at a time.

The animal is carried behind special safety barriers; and the cable car, which is also used by tourists, other locals and anglers, is washed out after each animal shipment.

A new car and cables were installed two years ago and farmers said they couldn't understand the reasons behind the new ban.

"Our record speaks for itself -- there are absolutely no health and safety issues here. But this ban is going to wipe us out. You can't farm on the island if you can't get your animals to the mart," Mr Sheehan told the Irish Independent.

"There are nine herd owners on Dursey Island and this will make it impossible to keep cattle on the island at all."

The council denied the new regulations were anti-farming and said officials would meet farmers on Friday to discuss the matter.

The council is also arranging a special subsidy scheme to help defray the cost of moving adult cattle by sea.

A council spokesperson stressed that because some adult animals could weigh 700kg or more, new restrictions for loads on the cable car were unavoidable.

Irish Independent

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