Lighthouse protest planned for St John's Point
HUNDREDS of people are expected to converge on St John's Point near Killough in Co Down tomorrow in support of the campaign to retain the local lighthouse's distinctive sweeping beam.
Irish Lights, the cross border body that operates and maintains Ireland's lighthouses, plans to replace the existing light with a new, less powerful LED.
However, campaign group Lecale Lightkeepers is opposed to the plan and claims the island-wide modernisation programme has resulted in "destruction and misery" elsewhere.
Iconic lighthouses in the Republic, including Fastnet and Tory Island, have seen their traditional lights replaced in recent months.
Irish Lights say the project will deliver "environmental, safety and cost benefits", while protecting and developing its heritage assets.
Its initial proposal was to replace the St John's Point lighthouse's existing Fresnel lens, which rotates in mercury, with a stationary LED. However, in the face of opposition, Irish Lights has revised its plan and now proposes retaining the existing rotating lens but with a 30 watt lamp rather than its current 1000 watt counterpart. According to Irish Lights, the new system is currently being trialled at an unspecified location.
Robert McCabe of Irish Lights said: "This project is still in testing phase at a separate site, and when we have a specific proposal for the next phase we will begin consultations with the council, planning authorities and heritage groups.
"Irish Lights is committed to collaborating with local communities and organisations to ensure the unique heritage of St John's Point is protected, while ensuring this site meets necessary modernisation and improvement standards."
Lecale Lightkeepers' spokeswoman Eileen Peters said the campaign group rejected Irish Lights' latest proposal.
"Such a beam would reduce the range of light by several miles, and reduce the quality of the beam – no downgrading of our light is acceptable," she said.
Ms Peters urged Irish Lights to "put greater effort into preserving the cultural value of magnificent lighthouses" rather than cutting costs.
:: Tomorrow's protest takes place at St John's Point at 3pm.