Public ‘in the dark’ over plans for Skellig Michael

Public ‘in the dark’ over plans for Skellig Michael
The increase in visitor numbers to Skellig Michael needs to be carefully managed, says the Environmental Pillar.

Environmental groups and the public are being left in the dark over the Government’s plans to manage Skellig Michael, according to Ireland’s largest environmental coalition.

The Environmental Pillar has made the claim in the wake of last month’s launch by the Government of a public consultation process on a management plan for the island. The management plan is required by Unesco and the consultation process is intended to guide and inform the content of the management plan.

However, in a letter sent this week to Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan, the group warned that the consultation is “fundamentally flawed” as the only document available for review is the old plan which expired in 2018.

As there is no draft of the next plan available, the Environmental Pillar outlined to the minister that “in essence, we are in the dark about the government’s proposals” for the heritage site.

The group said that if there is no further consultation on the actual draft plan proposed, it is “absolutely unacceptable”. It said that best practice should see the draft plan subjected to a six- to eight-week public consultation. This should be followed by workshops with key concerned groups, and then the publication of the draft final plan along with the required environmental assessment.

Environmental Pillar spokesperson Charles Stanley Smith said the increase in visitor numbers to the island as a result of it appearing in the Star Wars franchise needed to be carefully managed.

The success of Star Wars is largely positive in terms of local tourism but in terms of visitor numbers is putting undue strain on Skellig Michael as a leading Irish Unesco site and on the island’s birds habitats.

“The Environmental Pillar, however, would condemn any increase in landings and rather look for improvements of Skellig-related tourism projects on the mainland.

“Despite the clear importance of further debate on this issue, the Government decided that it was best to sneak in a public consultation at the end of December when most people are on leave for the Christmas and new year’s break,” he said.

The deadline for the public consultation process is January 18.

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