Calls for Fastnet beams to stay bright; Councillors oppose switch to energy-saver light at landmark site

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is being urged to stop the Commissioner for Irish Lights (CIL) downgrading the range of beams emitting from the country’s most iconic lighthouse.

Cork County Council is to write to Mr Varadkar asking him to stop CIL removing mercury-based lights at the Fastnet Lighthouse and replacing them with more energy-efficient LED lights.

Fianna Fáil councillor Gillian Coughlan won unanimous support from colleagues after she said the CIL move would “interfere” with the historic integrity of the lighthouse and reduce the beam out to sea from 27 to 18 nautical miles.

She said Mr Varadkar, in his role as Taoiseach and senior Minister for Defence, had the power to intervene.

CIL says the new lights would be more efficient and, although less powerful, would comply with the maximum range required for lights operating on Irish and British coasts.

Ms Coughlan said Fastnet Lighthouse could one day become a tourist attraction and its integrity should be maintained, as had been done in the US where a heritage order had been placed on the Boston Light, American’s oldest existing lighthouse.

She said Fastnet Lighthouse was built in 1879 and known as ‘The Teardrop of Ireland’ because so many emigrants passed it on ships heading for America.

“It was a symbol of departure, but also of possible return,” she said. “The ill-fated Lusitania would have passed it and it would have been the last landlight seen by those onboard the Titanic.

“There is no doubt that the lighthouse has saved hundreds of lives over the years, preventing ships crashing into the Carbery Island.

“I hope it will become a tourist attraction in the years to come and that’s why it should be preserved as much as possible. It’s a symbol for our diaspora.

“I want a stay put on the works proposed and get the Taoiseach to look at. It also merits inclusion in World Heritage sites.”

Independent councillor Danny Collins, who seconded her motion, said reducing the beam distance from 27 nautical miles down to 18 would have consequences.

“A lot of our inshore fishermen rely on it,” said Mr Collins. “This is a health and safety issue. I know Irish Lights had a public meeting in Schull a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t think it was adequately advertised.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn said: “It’s part of our heritage. There should be a stay put on the plans to replace the lights.”

Ms Coughlan said she looked forward to the response from the Taoiseach.

Independent councillor Marcia D’Alton said she agreed that Fastnet Lighthouse should also be included on a list of historic features in Cork which could be added to the prestigious Unesco World Heritage Sites.

The county council yesterday voted to set in train an application to have several buildings added to Unesco list, at the suggestion of Ms D’Alton.

They include the Royal Gunpowder Mill in Ballincollig, the Martello towers dotted around Cork Harbour, and forts at Spike Island and Camden, near Crosshaven.


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