OPW confirms winter storm damage on Sceilg Mhichíl/Skellig Michael

15 March 16

The Office of Public Works today (15 March 2016) confirmed that it has received reports of significant winter storm damage on Sceilg Mhichíl, the famous World Heritage Site off the Kerry coast.

The damage has been sustained to a length of wall along the main visitor path - known as the Lighthouse Road - leading from the landing pier at sea level to the base of the South Steps where visitors begin the climb to the famous Skellig Mhichíl monastic site. A portion of the wall at the Cross Cove has been swept away, possibly by the effects of wave action during recent severe storms. It is alternatively possible that the wall at this location may have been damaged as a result of rockfall from the slopes above the roadway; the section of roadway involved is particularly prone to rockfall, and a timber covered canopy has been in place for many years near this point to protect users from debris falling from above. However it will not be feasible to assess the actual cause of the damage until the OPW and Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht experts can access the site in the coming days to view the position at first hand.

The OPW also confirmed today that it has no information in relation to any damage being caused to the Monastic site for which Skellig Mhichíl is famous; as the Monastery is remote from the Lighthouse Road location and located considerably higher on the Island, it is not expected that there would be the same level of damage at that location as it is not vulnerable to either wave or landslide action. This will only be confirmed however once personnel have been able to access Skellig Mhichíl to inspect the entire site.

The Lighthouse Road forms the principal access route for visitors from the Landing Pier up to the base of the South Steps, the sole access for visitors to the Monastic site. Clearly therefore, damage of the scale suspected may, if it is judged to be unsafe, be of significant concern for visitor safety. It will be a priority for the inspection team therefore to establish urgently what the safety implications for visitors are this coming summer and how to address the matter given the importance of the site to the local tourism economy in Kerry.

Arrangements are currently being made to have qualified personnel landed on the Island as soon as possible to assess the damage and, once the position has been fully assessed, a report will be made to the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact Colette Davis OPW Press Officer at 087 947 5552 or email colette.davis@opw.ie