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"Significant winter storm damage" confirmed on Skellig Michael

It appears that wind and rain have had far more of an impact on the craggy terrain than the activities of JJ Abrams.

Image: PA WIRE

THE HARSH WEATHER resulted in “significant winter storm damage” on Skellig Michael in recent months, the Office of Public Works has said.

The Unesco World Heritage site has been in the news recently as a result of filming for Star Wars on the Co Kerry island.

However it appears that wind and rain have had far more of an impact on the craggy terrain than the activities of JJ Abrams and Mark Hamill.

“The damage has been sustained to a length of wall along the main visitor path – known as the Lighthouse Road – leading from the landing pier at sea level to the base of the South Steps where visitors begin the climb to the famous Skellig Mhichíl monastic site,” the OPW said in a statement.

“A portion of the wall at the Cross Cove has been swept away, possibly by the effects of wave action during recent severe storms.

“It is alternatively possible that the wall at this location may have been damaged as a result of rockfall from the slopes above the roadway; the section of roadway involved is particularly prone to rockfall, and a timber covered canopy has been in place for many years near this point to protect users from debris falling from above.”

The OPW says it won’t be feasible to assess the actual cause of the damage until experts can access the site in the coming days.

The agency adds “it has no information in relation to any damage being caused to the monastic site for which Skellig Mhichíl is famous; as the Monastery is remote from the Lighthouse Road location and located considerably higher on the Island, it is not expected that there would be the same level of damage at that location as it is not vulnerable to either wave or landslide action”.

However:

This will only be confirmed however once personnel have been able to access Skellig Mhichíl to inspect the entire site.

The Lighthouse Road forms the principal access route for visitors from the landing pier up to the base of the South Steps, and is the sole point of access for visitors to the monastic site.

As such, the safety of visitors to the site over the summer months is now a concern, the OPW says:

Clearly therefore, damage of the scale suspected may, if it is judged to be unsafe, be of significant concern for visitor safety. It will be a priority for the inspection team therefore to establish urgently what the safety implications for visitors are this coming summer and how to address the matter given the importance of the site to the local tourism economy in Kerry.

Arrangements are currently being made to have experts land on the island as soon as possible to assess the damage.

A report will then be prepared for acting arts and heritage minister Heather Humphreys.

Read: Skellig Michael’s obscurity is about to end ‘in a blaze of silver-screen glory’

Read: The New York Times visited Skellig Michael… and went completely overboard

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