Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment Arlene Foster have announced that Irish Lighthouses will be the focus of a new all-island, European Union INTERREG IVA funded €2.5million tourism and job creation project. The All Island Lighthouse Trail project, led by the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), will see key operational lighthouse facilities also made available for specialist tourism accommodation and attractions.
Some lighthouses already successfully offer visitor accommodation and tourist attractions. This new initiative is set to increase the number of locations in what will be the creation of a new lighthouse tourism sector. The Commissioners of Irish Lights operate over 70 lighthouses around the coast of Ireland - many of which are suitable for tourism development. All of these working lighthouses play a vital role in marine safety but are now automated and unmanned. Each lighthouse has accommodation attached, in some cases up to 5 houses, that can now be offered to tourists.
The announcement of Phase 1 of the plans was made on September 4th 2013 by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in the Northern Ireland Executive, Arlene Foster, MLA alongside Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body and Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The joint announcement for the project was made at one of the lighthouses set for development at Blackhead, Co Antrim.
Welcoming Minister Varadkar to Blackhead lighthouse, Minister Arlene Foster, MLA said "This wonderful initiative, that is being spearheaded by the Commissioners for Irish Lights and supported by all of the tourism and development authorities on the island as well as the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Many of our local lighthouses are historic buildings that play an important role in coastal navigation. Not only do they stand as tall reminders of our proud maritime history but they also offer significant tourism potential."
Minister Leo Varadkar TD said "I am delighted to be in Co Antrim today launching this innovative project with Minister Foster, which has great tourism potential. In this Gathering year it's fitting that these beautiful working lighthouses will also welcome visitors to Ireland, at sea and now on land. This is a very clever way of utilizing a precious asset to grow our tourism industry, create new jobs, and provide something truly unique."
Welcoming the project Pat Colgan, Chief Executive with the Special EU Programmes Body, said: "This is an important tourism initiative, which has the potential to create long-term economic and employment opportunities for local communities, on a cross-border basis."
"The initiative represents a niche form of rural tourism that will help broaden out the tourism season of the entire region. In helping to preserve an important part of our cultural heritage, the project will also create a lasting legacy that will attract both domestic and overseas visitors for many years to come," he continued.
The EU funded project will see 60 jobs supported during the construction period and 10 new jobs created when the facilities become operational. Phase 1 of the All Island Lighthouse Trail project involves 5 sites, three in Northern Ireland and two in Donegal. These will be added to the six sites already operating in the Republic with the eventual plan being to have between 15-20 lighthouses operating as part of a tourist trail all around the Irish coast.
Speaking at the launch of the project Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, said "Lighthouses by their very nature are connecting points between land and sea. They continue to play a very important role in the provision of our maritime safety services. This EU funded project has huge potential because in addition to maritime safety services it allows CIL to capitalise on the spectacular locations of our lighthouses, harness their huge heritage value and work with local communities in an exciting and innovative way to deliver economic and tourism benefits north and south."
The announcement follows the acceptance of a Business Plan and funding application submitted by the CIL to the EU's INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) that was set up to undertake a cross border development of properties in Donegal and Northern Ireland. The application was successful and has resulted in the €2.5million grant aid funding.
The Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB) will co-operate with the development of enhanced visitor facilities for sea bird watching at the Rathlin West Lighthouse on Rathlin Island.
Published: 4th September 2013