OPW confirms opening of Sceilg MhichĂ­l/Skellig Michael site after urgent repairs

9 May 16

Clare Mc Grath, Chairman of the Office of Public Works today welcomed the news that Sceilg Mhichíl/Skellig Michael, the renowned National Monument and World Heritage site located 12 km off the Kerry coast, is ready to receive visitors on Saturday next, 14th May this year, as planned, weather permitting. The scheduled opening of the world famous Island had been put into some doubt earlier this year when it was discovered that severe winter weather had caused significant damage which directly affected the Lighthouse Road, the main route for visitor access from the landing Pier to the famed early Christian Monastic site.

I am delighted" the OPW Chairman said, "that we have been able to ensure that the Sceilg Mhichíl/Skellig Michael site, which is such an important part of the tourism infranstructure of Co. Kerry, is ready to receive visitors, as scheduled, on 14 May this year."

The opening of the Island to visitors had been put into some doubt by the damage caused by winter storms to the Lighthouse Road. Rockfalls from the upper slopes at Sceilg Mhichíl/Skellig Michael above the Lighthouse Road severely damaged both the road surface and the protective seaward wall, ensuring that the only visitor route to the base of the famous Skellig Michael Monastery steps was severely compromised and off limits to visitors until repairs could be made.

"I am very happy to confirm that the repair works at Sceilg Mhichíl/Skellig Michael have gone very well in recent weeks" the Chairman continued. "We have been very fortunate with the weather and our staff from the OPW National Monuments Depot in Killarney have been able to access the site and begin the repairs needed over the past few weeks".

The repair works which have been started by the OPW team involve first stabilising the upper slopes to make sure that no further loose material comes down onto the Road and building a suitable work platform to ensure that the wall can be rebuilt. It is only after this has been completed that the necessary wall construction and the repairing of the road bed can be done, ensuring that safe access for visitors this summer can be restored.

"I want to pay tribute to the OPW staff from the OPW Killarney National Monuments Depot, supported by our Safety Contractor, Working at Height Ltd." Clare Mc Grath said, "They have worked in extremely difficult conditions over the past few weeks to ensure that the necessary work was done on time to make sure that the Island can open to the visiting public from 14th May next. This has involved working in difficult conditions for extremely long hours, staying onsite away from their homes and families for several days at a time and I would like, on behalf of the OPW, to thank them for the great work they have done. Our staff in the Killarney National Monuments Depot work to maintain many National Monument sites in State care in the South West and Sceilg Mhichíl/Skellig Michael is one of their most important - and difficult - assignments. I am delighted that they have been able to carry out enough work to ensure that the Island can be open to visitors next week and I would like to pay tribute to them and our Safety Contractor for their huge effort in ensuring that this was achieved."

OPW staff will continue to work at Skellig Michael over the coming weeks to ensure that the work to the Lighthouse Road and Wall will be fully completed. The work, which is highly weather dependant, will take some weeks to finish; however, the OPW is confident that in the meantime, visitors will be able to traverse the damaged section of road through a temporary access, protected from the nearby works site. There will be certain restrictions on visitors however given the fact that, technically, part of the visitor access route will remain a work site under Health and Safety legislation. Additionally, some very light material such as soil, dust etc continues to shed from the slope immediately above the breached Lighthouse Road wall and the OPW is taking a number of measures to inform visitors of the likelihood of further material continuing to fall for the foreseeable future. This material is however very light and insubstantial and does not pose a significant physical threat to visitors.

-ENDS-

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