Thursday 17 January 2019

Boat owners face prosecution if they land on Inishmurray

Paul Deering

Boat owners have been warned they face prosecution if they continue to organise trips to an historic island off the Sligo coast.

In a letter sent by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, boat owners were warned that the Marine Survey Office does not allow plying consent to the island due to "concerns for safety during embarking and disembarking at the island."

The department has warned boat owners who provide regular trips for visitors that until suitable landing facilities were in place this practice must cease "with immediate effect or the Marine Survey Office will have no alternative but to prosecute the vessel owner."

The department stated that it was aware the boat owners were advertising trips to the island.

The matter was raised at Monday's meeting of the County Council where Cllr Declan Bree said the small number of commercial boat owners who provide visitors with the opportunity of visiting Inishmurray Island were informed last week by the Marine Survey Office that they could no longer bring visitors to the island.

"Needless to say the boat operators and people involved in the local tourism trade in North Sligo are shocked at this move which comes at a time when Sligo is attempting to grow the numbers of tourists visiting the area.

"For 1500 years inhabitants of the island and people visiting embarked and disembarked at the natural harbours at the island, particularly at Clashymore.

"In days gone by horses, sheep and cattle and kegs of the best illicit whiskey were transported from the natural harbours on the island.

"To my knowledge, in living memory there has never been a fatality or serious injury to anyone while embarking or disembarking at the island.

"In this context I am at a loss to understand why this warning and threat of prosecution has been issued by the Department.

"This decision essentially stops the families of those who lived on the island up until 1948 from visiting the island in future.

"It also blocks all others who wish to visit the islands historically important early Christian monastic settlement.

Given that the Department has stated that passenger boats will not be allowed visit the island until suitable landing facilities are in place I believe there is now an onus on the Department and on Minister Shane Ross, to provide a suitable landing facility as a matter of urgency.," he said.

Cllr Bree proposed that the council asks the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when his Department intended to provide the mooring facilities at Inishmurray Island.

Inishmurray is an uninhabited island situated about four miles off the North Sligo coast and there are remains of an early Irish monastic settlement there.

Sligo Champion