Monday, 21 May 2012

Visit to Kilronan Harbour and Innishmore on Aran Islands

In the past few weeks I completed my round of Presidents Visits nationally to Infrastructure Projects by flying to the Aran Islands to view the recently completed Kilronan Harbour on Innishmore.

Kilronan Harbour under construction with breakwaters in the foreground (2009)
Courtesy of http://www.mpp.ie/
Flying with me was the Chairman of the West Region, Padraic O'Donoghue Professor of Civil Engineering at NUIG, Consultant Joe Murphy of Punch Consulting who designed the harbour and Regional Director Pat Nestor of BAM Contractors who built it. 

We were met by Kevin Finn Senior Marine Engineer Galway County Council and by Cathy Ní Ghoill Bainisteoir of Comharchumann Forbartha Árann (Manager of Innishmore Co-op) and Board Member on Údarás na Gaeltachta. Cathy also chaired the island's own Harbour Committee who were key stakeholders in the planning design and construction of the harbour by Galway County Council.

On the new harbour quay Padraic O'Donoghue, Pat Nestor, Joe Murphy,
Cathy Ní Ghoill and PJ Rudden

Kilronan Harbour costing some €40million is the largest project completed on an offshore island in the history of the state. It is a magnificent new facility that has and will continue to transform transport services to and from for islanders and tourists alike in addition to providing for the fishing and cargo industry also.

The harbour required construction of a 550m long breakwater to protect it from the Atlantic swell in Galway Bay. Separate berthing facilities were required for ferries, fishing vessels, cargo boats and the RNLI Aran Lifeboat in addition to car parking facilities to accommodate all harbour users.

On new breakwaters with existing pier, ferries and Aran Lifeboat in background 
Padraic O'Donoghue, PJ Rudden and Cathy Ní Ghoill
When we were on Innishmore we also viewed a number of very interesting waste, energy, childcare, assisted living and amenity projects all proposed and built by the Comharchumann with funding from the various public agencies. They are all very impressive and rival similar projects anywhere on the mainland in Ireland. Cathy as Co-op Manager together with her deputy Geraldine and staff member Breda is responsible for all of them in terms of furthering community development on the island.

The waste recycling project set up by Timpealleacht na nOileán (now known as Athcursala Árann Teoranta) is one of the few national composting projects fully licensed by the Dept of Agriculture and Food under the EU Animal Byproducts Directive. Managed by Gerry Mullin who works for the Co-op recycling company, the depot is thus capable of recycling all of the catering waste from the restaurants on Inis Mór (there are similar facilities on Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr) in addition to the household food waste from the houses there. This would put many of our cities and towns in Ireland to shame where the 'brown waste bin' for food waste does not yet have the penetration levels that it should at this stage of our national development.

In Athcursála Arann recycling depot, Engineers Ireland visiting group
with Gerry Mullin Depot Manager
Cathy also showed us the Automatic Diesel Refuelling Depot, the Retirement Home and the Island Crèche. The use and storage of petrol on the island is forbidden under safety regulations so all cars on the island use only diesel - except for the 6 electric cars recently supplied to the islanders by SEAI and Electric Ireland as a pilot scheme to test the cars in the harsh Atlantic environment!

The very colourful two storey 6-roomed architect designed crèche would certainly be the envy of most childcare communities in Ireland. Also the new playground in Kilronan is the largest and most colourful amenity I've seen anywhere in Ireland in terms of size, design and sheer range of outdoor equipment to cater for all ages from 3 to 17 year olds.

In new Kilronan Community Playground at back Padraic O'Donoghue and Pat Nestor 
at front PJ Rudden and Cathy Ní Ghoill
From all of the above one might think that the population of the Aran Islands is growing quickly.  It's not unfortunately but it’s not falling either so there is every hope that all of these new amenities might encourage young families to stay. Aran is a unique national heritage and needs all of these supports to make life closer to the relative comforts of the mainland.

In new harbour car park with Kevin Finn Senior Marine Engineer Galway County Council
Even convincing the tourists who come to the prehistoric fort Dun Aonghusa to stay overnight can be difficult and yet there can be no tourism industry on Aran unless we regrow a new young vibrant community there.

View of Dun Aonghusa
Courtesy of www.galway.net
Great credit is due to former Minister Eamon O'Cuiv over the past 10 years who pushed and funded most of the infrastructure we saw, to Galway County Council and to Comharchumann Arann for their collective foresight to keep the Aran Islands alive.

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