The Dursey Island cable car closed for crucial safety works last March. Eamonn Farrell
West Cork

Calls for Dursey Island cable car works to be sped up amid fears cattle could starve over winter

There are fears that the island will be abandoned for the first time in 420 years.

A CORK TD is calling on the county council to re-instate the Dursey Island cable car as locals now fear that cattle could starve in the coming winter months if they aren’t able to reach the island. 

West Cork TD Chris O’Sullivan said that it is very disappointing that the cable car wasn’t in place by November as originally expected, after it was closed last March for crucial safety works. 

“The farmers who use the island are really frustrated by this. I would now urge that the cable ropes that now need to be delivered from Europe are delivered as soon as possible and installed with haste, so that life can get back to normal on Dursey Island. 

“In the meantime I would ask that the council install a new derrick so that the islanders can easily hoist their boats back out of the water,” O’ Sullivan stated. 

The TD is also calling on the council to revisit a plan for a new cable car system and a visitor centre to be built at Dursey Island, after an approved plan was halted by a judicial review. 

The €10 million plan to boost tourism in the Beara peninsula was thrown into peril when it was announced that a judicial review would be taking place, after Friends of the Irish Environment and other groups raised concerns about the An Bord Pleanála approved plans. 

The planning was granted to Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland in November 2021, despite the planning regulator’s own inspector recommendation that it be refused. 

The project would have seen the old cable car system replaced by a new one, capable of carrying 650 people an hour, as well as an 84-person café and parking for cars and buses. 

FIE and Birdwatch Ireland raised concerns about the project, as the island is ecologically sensitive. 

The An Bord Pleanala inspector was more so concerned about visitor capacity on the island. 

The board went against this recommendation, stating that a cap on visitor numbers and other mitigation measures would nullify those concerns. 

However, following the High Court granting the judicial review, the council didn’t choose to contest the decision. 

“That plan is now dead in the water. I think Cork County Council should revisit that project, as it would have been very exciting for the whole peninsula and all of West Cork,” Deputy O’ Sullivan said. 

More pressingly, a Dursey Island farmer has said that he fears the sixty cattle on the island could starve in the coming winter months as the cable car remains closed, despite locals having been told that it would open last month. 

Martin Sheehan, the chair of the Dursey Island Development Association said it is now unclear when the cable car will be re-opened, leading to real fear that the island will be abandoned for the first time in 420 years. 

“There are two fulltime residents left there at the moment, one is an 81-year-old man, Jimmy Harrington. There are twenty stakeholders on island including fifteen people with holiday homes and two farmers,” Mr Sheehan explained. 

Now that locals are being told the cable car – which was opened 53 years ago today by then Taoiseach Jack Lynch – will be up and running again in early 2023. 

Though there is boat running to the island at the moment, Sheehan fears it will be near impossible to get a ferry out to the tip of the Beara peninsula in the winter and spring months, which is one of the reasons the cable car was built in the first place. 

He says that the older man living there and another resident who is currently on the island will be “leaving in the next week as well” as it is not good for anyone’s mental state” to be isolated on the island without the cable car connecting them to the mainland. 

Sheehan also fears that livestock may starve out on the island in the coming months, as though sheep can graze on the hills, cattle will go hungry if animal feed is not transported to them, and there are also worries about the logistics of calving next years if the cable car hasn’t reopened. 

Speaking on Morning Ireland about the issue, Sheehan said “Please, anyone listening to this programme, help us.” 

The Cork man is the third generation of his family to live and farm on Dursey Island. 

Cork County Council has been contacted for comment on when the cable car will reopen exactly, whether a new derrick will be put in place, and on the possibility of revisiting the plans for a new cable car system and a visitor centre. 

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