Skellig Michael, the world heritage site off the coast of Kerry, is to open to visitors this weekend.
However, operators who need permits to ferry tourists are demanding the season begin in April in future.
With weather a determining factor for boats and their visitors, ferrymen are warning of rough Atlantic waters during the 12km crossings this opening weekend.
OPW-appointed guides and stonemasons have already been ferried to the early medieval Christian monastic island for preparatory works.
Boatmen permitted to land passengers on the island have also been given clearance by the OPW but are, reportedly, still awaiting their permits. The season’s opening date had been jeopardised, in recent weeks, when maintenance staff discovered a rockfall had taken place at a location close to the OPW base at the island.
The jagged rock, rising to 218m, is a Unesco world heritage monastic site. It came to further global prominence in recent years due to the island being screened in Star Wars episodes.
Visitor numbers have since significantly increased and, in September last, the official visitor count numbered 13,500.
After a series of rock displacement, the OPW said it will continue to monitor the situation and advise if any identifiable public risk occurs. “We are delighted that we have been able to do the necessary safety works to deal with this problem” said Grellan Rourke, the OPW’s senior conservation architect responsible for Skellig Michael.
“The rockfall posed a considerable challenge for our staff and contractors who have worked hard to deal with the problem while simultaneously dealing with the normal pre-season maintenance checks at the site to make sure the visitor areas are ready for visitors,” said Mr Rourke.
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