A Sligo councillor says the ongoing issue of access to Inishmurray Island off the coast of North Sligo is ‘being turned into a political football.’
Independent Alliance Councillor Marie Casserly was speaking at this week’s meeting of councillors from Sligo Municipal District after she came under pressure to arrange a meeting with Transport Minister and Independent Alliance TD Shane Ross during his expected visit to Sligo on Friday for the N4 sod-turning ceremony.
The Marine Survey Office attached to the Department of Transport has banned visits to Inishmurray — an ancient monastic island and important bird sanctuary — because of health and safety reasons.
It’s a move that has angered commercial boat owners who take visitors to the island as well those promoting tourism in the region.
At this week’s meeting of councillors from Sligo Municipal District, Fianna Fail Councillor Tom MacSharry called on the council to start surveying existing landing facilities at the island, to design the necessary improvements to satisfy the Marine Survey Office, and start the work as a matter of urgency.
Council Director of Services Tom Kilfeather suggested that in order to move this forward, the council carry out minor works, costing about €30,000 to €40,000, such as putting up ladders and cutting out some rock at the landing area.
Mr Kilfeather said he got the impression the Marine Survey Office wanted to move this forward but it was not telling the council what work it wanted done.
He added he was also taking into consideration Cllr Declan Bree’s concern about the council take on a role it did not previously have.
Cllr Bree wondered if the council would have to bring out materials to the island by helicopter, which would ‘cost a fortune.’
Cllr MacSharry said a solution to the issue must be found before another tourist season starts.
Councillors eventually agreed to defer discussion on the issue for two months to allow a meeting with Minister Ross and to see what plans could be made for landing facilities.
There were also calls for officials from the Department of Transport to visit Inishmurray with engineers from the council, so as to get an outline of exactly what work needs to be done.