The Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland has said her organisation would be “delighted” to work in partnership with Clare County Council to develop improved public access to Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) on Lough Derg.
Dawn 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, regarded as one of the most important historical and ecclesiastical sites in Ireland.
The island comprises some 50 acres of which more than 4 acres are in the ownership of the Office of Public Works (OPW).
Ms. Livingstone confirmed: “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 added.
Ms. Livingstone was accompanied on her visit to Holy Island by Gerard Dollard, Director of Services, Clare County Council, who confirmed that the local authority is presently putting funding in place and signing contracts to acquire the land.
“Clare County Council warmly welcomes Waterways Ireland’s interest in working with the Council to enhance public access to Holy Island and to incorporate the site into the local tourism product,” commented Mr. Dollard, who added: “We have already commenced the preparation of terms of reference for a visitor management plan on how the untapped potential of Holy Island can be realised. The development of the plan will follow the purchase of the island and consultation with all stakeholders and the local community.”
Holy Island has important links to Brian Ború and is known throughout East Clare as the “Jewel of the Lough’. 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.