European Small Islands Federation

Archive for Arranmore

Pleasant news from Arranmore


Arranmore is Ireland’s second largest island, covering 22 sq km with a resident population of just over 500 people and about 1,500 summer residents.

Arranmore was part of the ESIN cluster in the SMILEGOV project through its Energy Committee, made an Energy Plan for 2012-2032 and applied for funding to save energy. Now, the Irish Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment announces that “Arranmore Island Energy Committee has been included as part of 38 community energy projects who are to receive €20m in grant funding through the Better Energy Communities scheme operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.”

The total cost of the project on Arranmore is estimated at €656,962, with a grant on offer of €411,552, to retrofit 47 island dwellings and the community hall on Arranmore, in addition to the upgrade of eight non-residential buildings on the mainland, including four community buildings, a national school and three private service stations.

The private organisations are helping to fund the community projects by donating a percentage of their grant to reduce the cost to communities. The local credit union is providing low cost loans to support the residential elements. Some renewable energy technologies are included in addition to standard retrofits measures.

Today, ESIN received this message by email from Séamus Bonner at the Arranmore Energy Committee:

”Dear Christian,

I am writing with a quick update on the application we were working on for the island earlier in the year.  We got some good news in June that the application was successful.  Work is continuing at the moment and will hopefully be finished at the end of the month.

Some more information here:€20m-in-Community-Energy-Grants.html-

The project is to receive €411,000 for a project value of over €650,000.  Thank you to yourself and ESIN for your support through the application process.

Best Regards, Séamus”


A turning tide in the life of man

A turning tide in the life of man

”A turning tide in the life of man” is a film by French director Loïs Jourdain about fisherman John O’Brian from Árainn Mhór.

John puts himself, as ‘David against Goliath’, in the heart of the new reform of the Common Fisheries in Brussels, to try to understand and change the system that took everything from him. We see the Irish fishermen’s efforts to survive and their long quest to find answers to their questions; traveling, meeting with politicians, gathering together other islands communities from all around Europe, querying MEPs, working with International NGOs to understand the political process and convincing those who hold the power to join their fight and make a difference.

As John gets closer to the European Parliament, circumstances force him into a more important role. He becomes one of the few EU small fishermen representatives and advisor by default in the new reform process. Discovering that he’s only a little piece of a larger puzzle, for the first time, John has to envisage the bigger picture for himself and like the Members of the European Commission, John and his people also have to take into consideration, environmental, economic and social issues.

Árainn Mhór is definitely one of Europe’s most endangered island societies, masterly described in Nicolas Loncle’s “Analysis of an insular system and its resources. A contribution to the elaboration of a development strategy for Arranmore Island”. Árainn Mhór is also one of the Smilegov islands in the ESIN cluster, the report can be found here

Arrain Mhor photo Loïc Jourdain

Árrain Mhór photograph by Loïs Jourdain

SMILEGOV has landed


The ESIN part of the SMILEGOV project has landed. Thanks to the 15 islands which has been a part of it and the 40 people who has worked in it, there are good results and some very interesting findings. Please have a look at the project presentation (attached) and/or study the complete island energy reports at


Notes from a small island

Arranmore graveyard

I’m in my Father’s place. The Weather App on my iPhone, not wishing to be precise, locates me at the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s Arranmore Island off the coast of Donegal. I’m here for a family gathering. Not a wedding nor a funeral, just a once off occasion to share time with those with whom I have a genetic imprint.

My uncle, the eldest surviving brother since my Dad passed away, is King of the Island. It’s a honorary title but it does allow us to wallow in a pretence of being a ‘royal’ family.

Our being here coincides with the marking of other events. The primary school my Dad went to was opened one hundred years ago. Peadar O’Donnel, the radical socialist when that term meant something, taught there. He would still have something to say about people, place and dignity.

In the Seanad, in an act that some might say abused my position, I argued for retention of the one teacher twelve pupil school, I was glad that for once I seemed to be listened to.

A second occasion being marked is the sixtieth anniversary of the evacuation of the adjacent much smaller island of Inniscarra. A village street structure there stares poignantly up at its still inhabited bigger brother. The name of the island comes from the Irish ‘Island of the Sheep’. That’s just what it is, no irony, no overworked analogy.

Arranmore exists through the kindness of strangers. Strip by strip islanders have been denied the means to better provide for themselves. They can’t fish, there are few fish left. They can’t grow as the peaty soil doesn’t allow for it. There is some livestock. Only tourism offers some capacity.

Employment is exported to the mainland and beyond. Family life becomes a weekend activity. One of the skills that has been developed is that of tunnelling. Gangs of men from here have been linked with key infrastructure projects such as the Channel Tunnel.

My Dad used some of the accumulated expertise when he worked as a dynamiter at an uranium mine in Canada. My Mother told me only recently how he had been approached by ‘the lads’ to use his skill to help ‘the cause’. It seems he took great satisfaction in telling his hopeful recruiters what he thought of their cause and what they were doing to realise it.

What Arranmore needs, what all islands need, are the tools and infrastructure of the 21st century. This is the Digital Age where in theory work can be done from anywhere. Being perched on one leg with my iPhone out of a window isn’t exactly the ideal working environment.

Other countries, like Denmark, take the idea of sustaining island life more seriously, putting in place programmes to achieve those goals effectively. For island life we can also read life in rural towns and villages. There continues to be no real spatial policy in this country. A bloated Dublin continues to vacuum life from the rest of country. I’m tempted to summon up my Dad’s dynamiting skills for some more creative purposes.

That would, at least, give me another reason to remember him. Fifteen years ago this month he passed away. While letting nature take its course he seemed to plan his passing. He spent his last three months on the island arranging for all his grandchildren to visit him. When he lapsed into a coma after his third bout of cancer in twenty years, he was transported across the island on hay on a tractor and trailer. The island’s ambulance being repaired at time.

Micheál Martin was then Minister for Health. I was so angry at him because of that but eventually realised it had nothing to do with him. Besides he had his own reasons to grieve my Dad’s death.

It was Letterkenny General Hospital where my Mother and I had to decide to switch off his respirator. Cork where he was buried. His soul we knew stayed on the island. It’s what and why we go to visit.

Dan Boyle

Republished with permission from Dan Boyle, a former Green Party Irish TD, see

Dan Boyle