WATCH: Hopes for 100,000 visitors to Spike Island as further plans unveiled

Plans have been drawn up for a €6.25m second phase of development at Spike Island in Cork harbour which, it is hoped, will drive visitor numbers there to 100,000 per year by 2020.

Sadhbh Kelly, as Little Nellie of Holy God, walking along with members of Cobh Animation Team in costume. Picture: Denis Minihane

Details of the planned upgrade were revealed yesterday as a large number of guests were invited onto the island to celebrate the official opening of its first phase of development, which cost €6.5m.

David Keane, director of the Spike Island Development Company, said the county council, which owns the site, had lodged an application for €5m of Fáilte Ireland funding for phase two, with the council adding a further €1.25m from its own resources.

“We are looking for a new ferry to run from Cobh to Spike, for a road train on the island to ferry people from the pier into the fort, and to develop a children’s playground,” Mr Keane said.

The project also includes the creation of a reception area and shop and additional interpretive centres detailing the island’s military occupation, role as a prison and site for convict transportation.

“We also plan to do up the original prison cells which date back to the 17th century. We hope for a funding decision in November and if successful will start work on phase two next summer, completing it in 18 months,” he said.

Many people attended the opening ceremony in period costume and a 16-gun salute commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising boomed impressively from the fort’s coastal battery.

Mayor of County Cork, Seamus McGrath, said that when the council took possession of the island in 2010, then county manager Martin Riordan “deserved enormous credit for pursuing its development” in what was, at the time, a very difficult economic climate.

In 2011, a masterplan was developed and a steering group set up under Brendan Touhy that oversaw implementation of the €6.5m project — €3.5m from the council and the remainder from Fáilte Ireland.

It involved the installation of a pontoon and refurbishing and putting in interpretation centres in the punishment block and shell store.

Seamus McGrath, Mayor of County Cork, and Tim Lucey, CEO, Cork County Council, unveil a plaque to mark the official opening of Spike Island. Picture: Martin Walsh

A military exhibition yard was constructed, cafe extended and proper access created to the gun emplacements.

“Spike Island is now a go-to destination, comparable with attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse and Bunratty Castle. We hope by 2020 what is known as Ireland’s Alcatraz will have 100,000 visitors a year,” Mr McGrath said.

Members of 1 Brigade Artillery Regiment, Collins Barracks, during the 16-gun salute at the official opening of the Spike Island development. Picture: Denis Minihane

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