Fastnet upgrade to cut light power

The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) are refusing to row back on plans to replace historic lights at the country’s most southwesterly lighthouse, reducing the power of their beams from 27 to 18 nautical miles.

Cork county councillors have asked CIL to abandon plans to replace mercury-based lights at the Fastnet Lighthouse with more energy-efficient LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights.

A number of councillors maintain this will cause safety issues for boat users and interfere with the historic integrity of the lighthouse.

It was built in 1879 and known as ‘The Teardrop of Ireland,’ because many emigrants passed it on ships heading for America.

Cllr Gillian Coughlan described the move as “penny wise, pound foolish”.

“If we’re going to just have a little torch on the Fastnet that won’t do.”


She pointed out that changing any aspect of the famous building would impinge on its historic nature and tourism potential.

Cllr Coughlan said 2,000 granite blocks were brought over from Cornwall to build the lighthouse, which she described as an extraordinary feat of engineering: “It should be kept the way it is. It would be a great lesson for a student of engineering or science. The mercury lights should be maintained. I want the Commissioners of Irish Lights to rethink this.”

Cllr Danny Collins said people in the Mizen peninsula have been let down by the decision: “We have fishermen with no satellite navigation.

“These lights saved many inshore fishermen in the past. We’re losing 9km of a beam. That will have implications.”


Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan agreed with both of them and said there shouldn’t be any changes to the building which is an iconic structure.

Cllr Alan Coleman also had concerns about tampering with its historic equipment: “We want it to be unique into the future.”

However, Cllr Paul Hayes said Cllr Coughlan is going a bit far by describing an 18 nautical mile beam as a torch: “I don’t think the Commissioners of Irish Lights are going to deliberately cause a health and safety issue.”

“It (the lighthouse) will look exactly the same as it did 120 years ago. This is just a modernisation,” Cllr Joe Carroll said.

Minister Shane Ross, who is in charge of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, said the work will continue but both he and the commissioners noted the great emotional attachment the people of West Cork have for the lighthouse.

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