Ferry operators are hopeful that much-needed public toilets will be in place on the Great Blasket Island ahead of this year's tourist season.
The famed island off the Kerry coast, once home to the author Peig Sayers, has no running water, wifi or electricity, but attracts an average of 12,000 visitors annually.
Each year the island also sees thousands of people apply for two roles as caretakers, working from April to September. The need for public toilets was highlighted when last year’s caretakers Claire de Haas and Brock Montgomery detailed how members of the public were defecating in the late author’s home, in other ruins and around areas of the island, because of the lack of facilities.
In October, Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan announced that the Office of Public Works (OPW) was examining the possibility of erecting public toilets on the island. The OPW said at the time that it would seek quotes from suitably qualified professionals to assess potential locations on the island for toilet facilities.
An OPW spokesperson on Monday said: “The provision of public conveniences on An Blascaod Mór (the Great Blasket Island) is an ongoing challenge given the unique nature of the Island, which attracts 12,000 visitors annually.
“The OPW is actively pursuing a number of options for the provision of public toilets with a view to having a workable solution in operation as soon as practicable.”
However, a ferry operator to the island has said “it is now down to two options on providing public facilities which we are hopeful will be sorted out soon and before the next tourist season.”
Last summer, there were also reports of seals being abused by daytrippers to the islands wanting to take selfies with the mammals.
The OPW added: “(We are continuing) to working on installing appropriate signage ahead of the 2023 visitor season, to include signs related to the protection of the seals and birdlife”. The agency will also be co-ordinating with ferry operators to make sure that all tourists receive information about the island's heritage and natural landscape.
There are no permanent residents on the island, which was abandoned in the 1950s because emergency services were unable to reach it in storms.
Billy O’Connor owns the only accommodation on the island with his partner Alice Hayes - three cottages which are rented out to holidaymakers - a coffee shop. It is the caretakers' job to take care of the cottages and shop.
The caretakers for this year’s season have yet to be announced but are expected to be chosen by the end of February. Previous caretakers on the island include Limerick's Niamh Kelleher and her partner Jack Cakehead from France, Annie Birney and Eoin Boyle, from Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, and Kildare couple Leslie Kehoe and Gordon Bond.