Historic Lough Derg island may be bought by council

Gerard Dollard, Clare County Council; Dawn Livingstone, CEO, Waterways Ireland, and Niall Moore, Waterways Ireland outside St Caimin's Church on Holy Island
The historic Holy Island, or Inis Cealtra on Lough Derg, looks set to come into public ownership after Clare County Council confirmed it was in advanced talks to purchase it.

The historic Holy Island, or Inis Cealtra on Lough Derg, looks set to come into public ownership after Clare County Council confirmed it was in advanced talks to purchase it.

Holy Island is one of the most important historical and ecclesiastical sites in Ireland and has important links to Brian Ború. The island comprises some 50 acres of which more than four acres are in the ownership of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Still used as a burial ground, its ruins and buildings date back to the 7th century when the monastic site was established by St Caimin. Buildings on the island include a 24-metre high round tower, an oratory and a number of churches. The island lies close to the village of Mountshannon, with its nesting sea eagles, and is on the UNESCO World Heritage site tentative list as an early medieval monastic site, along with Clonmacnoise, Durrow, Glendalough, Kells and Monasterboice.

Cllr John Crowe, Cathaoirleach, Clare County Council, said he was “confident the acquisition of this important site can be completed. It would be tremendous to secure public ownership this year, considering it is the millennial anniversary of the death of Brian Ború.”

Gerard Dollard, director of services, Clare County Council, confirmed that the acquisition of the island has been under consideration for a number of years and that an opportunity recently arose to bring the site into public ownership.

“We look forward to receiving ongoing Government support for this initiative,” he said.

The move has been welcomed by Waterways Ireland, with its chief executive, Dawn Livingstone, saying her organisation would be “delighted” to work in partnership with Clare County Council to develop improved public access to the facility.

Ms Livingstone was speaking following a visit to Holy Island during which she was briefed by the local authority on its plans to secure the purchase of the island

“Waterways Ireland would be delighted to work in partnership with the council to develop better access to Holy Island as part of a management plan for care of the important ecclesiastical monuments on the island has been developed. Holy Island is one of a number of important historic sites associated with the inland waterways, which Waterways Ireland believe linked together form a heritage trail that would also bring new visitors to the waterways and local areas,” she said.

Ms Livingstone was accompanied on her visit to Holy Island by Mr Dollard.