State expected to take over Blasket schoolhouse ruins

The ruins of an old schoolhouse on the historic Great Blasket Island are soon expected to be in state ownership.

Negotiations are at an advanced stage with St Brendan’s Trust which manages Catholic Church property in the Kerry Diocese.

As well as being a centre of education, the school was also used as a base for religious ceremonies by the church.

Most of the island and about 80% of the ruined village are now in state hands and the long-term aim is to develop the island as a national historic park.

A sum of €8.5m has already been allocated for a future management plan for the island but a lack of funding due to the recession is delaying progress.

The school walls and parts of the village houses still remain. The plan is to conserve, rather than restore, the ruins as they are.

For the past two years, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has been carrying out conservation work in the village which it hopes to complete this year.

The village has been deteriorating since the island — which produced several writers — was abandoned in 1953.

A key feature of the management plan is to build new piers, one on the island and the other at Dunquin, the main embarkation point from the mainland to the Great Blasket.

Funding is not available, at present, for the proposed piers but it is hoped to carry out interim work to improve the old pier on the island.

The Blasket Centre, in Dunquin, which offers insights into the island’s culture, history and way of life, is annually visited by 50,000 people.

More than 15,000 visit the island, availing of ferry services provided by four companies in the area.

Blasket Centre manager Micheal de Mordha said the Great Blasket was very important to the Dingle Peninsula, culturally and for tourism.

“If anything, interest in the island is growing and books continue to be written about it. Nobody has lived there permanently for almost 60 years, but many people want to go there,” he said.

On a recent visit to the island, Minister of State for the OPW Brian Hayes said he hoped the process of transferring responsibility for the old village to the state is completed shortly.

Mr Hayes unveiled a commemorative stone in memory of the islanders, many of whom emigrated to the US. The stone was crafted by Dingle-based sculptor Antonio Fazio.


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