Council eyes up purchase of Holy Island

Council eyes up purchase of Holy Island


Clare County Council today confirmed that it is an advanced stage of negotiations to secure the purchase of Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) on Lough Derg, the largest lake on the River Shannon.

Holy Island is one of the most important historical and ecclesiastical sites in Ireland, has important links to Brian Ború and is known throughout East Clare as the “Jewel of the Lough’. The island comprises some 50 acres of which more than 4 acres are in the ownership of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Still used as a burial ground, the ruins and buildings still standing on Holy Island date back as far as 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 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 of Clare County Council expressed his delight that discussions are at an advanced stage and said he is “confident the acquisition of this important site can be completed.”

The Cathaoirleach added: “I briefed the Tourism Minister, Mr. Pascal Donohue, T.D., on the current status during his recent visit to Clare and I also have been in contact with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW who already own land on the island. It would be tremendous to secure public ownership of Holy Island this year, considering it is the millennial anniversary of the death of Brian Ború.”

“My Council colleagues as well as Clare’s six Oireachtas members are very supportive of public ownership of this important site,” he added.

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 are fully aware of the significance of this location and would be anxious to see it forming part of the local tourism product and available to the wider public,” explained Mr. Dollard.

He continued: “We are conscious of the strong heritage, environmental and conservation considerations associated with the Island and for that reason have commenced the preparation of terms of reference for a visitor management plan on how the untapped potential of this site can be realised. A critical first step is to secure public ownership and we look forward to receiving ongoing Government support for this initiative.”



  1. This is great news – it is a very important historical site and needs to be protected. Not only is it full of important buildings from the 7th century and later – but there are many older remains stretching back into prehistory. During my first visit there in 1967 I already knew this was a very special place. When I returned to research in 1989 I was thrilled to see it had been preserved and respected and still much the same as it had been when I first saw it. The fascinating history I uncovered led me to use it as one of the important locations in a novel I wrote. I am thrilled to hear that it is going to be protected. I plan to visit it again soon and write more about this sacred and magical place that has drawn people since prehistory. Who knows what secrets are still hidden on holy island, and what it can mean to future generations.