Dursey Island Cable Car: lights out for another Irish Island?

From Christian Pleijel

Taking a boat out to Dursey Island on the outermost southwest corner of Ireland is extremely dangerous in winter, since Dursey Sound is notoriously treacherous. The safest way to access the island is by the cable car – which was opened in 1969.

The aerial link has been shut for maintenance since March Photograph: Johannes Rigg/Alamy

I visited Dursey in the winter of 2013, just before all animals including sheepdogs were banned from using the cable car. The carriage of animals in the cable car has been one of the iconic images of West Cork.

In March this year, repair work put the cable car out of service. A temporary ferry service commenced operating in June. Now, in December, the cable car is still not ready and it is unclear when it will be up and running again, reports the Irish Examiner. The island’s two permanent residents, eight farmers and numerous holiday home owners, part-time residents and visitors are eft with no means of getting to the island.

Martin Sheehan has cattle and sheep on the island. The sheep will be self-sufficient over the winter, but if the cable car isn’t running by February 1 the cattle will face starvation.

Mr Sheehan is also the chairman of Dursey Island Development Association. To the Irish Examiner, he says: “When the cable car was opened in 1969 there were 50 residents on the island. When the school closed in the 1970s it changed the dynamic and shifted a lot of people to the mainland.” He continues: “Dursey survived the Famine, World War One and several recessions, but I don’t know if it will survive this.”

For the first time in 420 years, lights are about to be switched off on Dursey. The island is no longer just 374 meters away from the mainland, it has moved unattainably far away which is what we call perceived distance in the habitability concept (indicator 8).

Note: The latest information is that the cable car is to reopen 31 March 2023.

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