Minister of State, Sean Canney, T.D., announces the completion of safety works at Skellig Michael.

30 September 16

Seán Canney, T.D., Minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief today announced the completion of a series of complicated and technically difficult safety works at Skellig Michael, the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site which is located 12 kilometres off the Kerry coast.

Before the commencement of the Skelligs visitor season, the Island was beset by severe storms which resulted in a significant rock fall from the upper slopes of the Island down onto the Lighthouse Road. This is the main route for visitor access to the base of the famous long series of steps rising to the ancient Monastery. Severe damage was caused to the roadway and the seaward boundary wall and there were concerns that the site would not be able to open to visitors during the summer season. Happily, the OPW was able to restore safe visitor access and the tourist season started only one day later than scheduled, on 15 May, 2016.

The Minister said “We were extremely happy that we could make the access road safe for visitors to pass and that this world renowned site could remain open during the busy 2016 visitor season. Up to the middle of September, some 13,500 people had visited this iconic Island whose history dates back to the sixth century”.

Some material continued to run off the upper slopes of the island, helped along by burrowing nesting birds in many cases, and OPW staff carried out a detailed structural and geotechnical examination of the upper slopes to identify any potentially loose rocks. This examination identified a large rock on a ledge on the steep slope above the roadway just up from the landing which was judged to be potentially unstable and was monitored on a daily basis. After a full options assessment by the OPW’s technical team, supported by structural engineers Malachy Walsh & Partners and the resident safety expert, the decision was taken to “pin” the rock in place using a system of stainless steel bars drilled into the rock face at the base of the rock. In addition, heavy duty stainless steel wire ties were used to restrain the upper part of the rock, anchored into bedrock on either side. The stainless steel has been wrapped with denso tape.

The Minister went on to say “This was an extremely complex and difficult undertaking that was developed by the Skelligs Team. The works that have been carried will ensure that the rock will be held securely in place for many years to come. This was no small feat considering that the rock in question is estimated to weigh approximately 3 tonnes. I wish to commend all those who worked tirelessly to ensure that visitors could continue throughout the summer to enjoy the sheer rugged beauty, rich history and wealth of flora and fauna of the Island.

The Skellig Michael visitor season concludes next Sunday, 2nd October, when the Island closes to the public until the commencement of the visitor season in May 2017.

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