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Calls for closure of Donegal islands on safety grounds

Gola lies just over half a mile of the coast of Gweedore.
Seamus McKinney

THERE have been calls for two remote Donegal islands to be “closed” on health and safety grounds.

Donegal county councillor Michael Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig said Gola Island and neighbouring Owey should be off limits to visitors because of the dangerous state of roads and walkways.

The Gaeltacht councillor said there is an urgent need for money to be spent to bring them up to an acceptable standard.

Approximately one kilometre off the coast of Gweedore, Gola had a thriving community until the mid-1960s when the last inhabitants left because of a lack of services.

Since then it has proved popular with day visitors and a small number of people have set up home on the island in recent years.

Gola has also been made famous through the Gaelic song Báidín Fhéilimí (Feilimi's boat) which details the tragic story of the sinking of a boat and the death of the owner.

The smaller Owey Island lies slightly further out and was also inhabited until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is particularly popular with kayakers for its spectacular sea caves.

But Mr Mac Giolla Easbuig said both islands are now in a dangerous state because of a failure by government to invest money.

He told The Irish News that Gola and Owey, along with other small islands, are “not fit for purpose” after summer flash floods washed away a lot of roads and walkways.

“My primary concern is the preservation of the islands' culture and language,” he said.

The independent councillor said the government was promoting the west of Ireland as a tourism destination through the Wild Atlantic Way but was not investing in the required infrastructure.

He said he would warn any tourists thinking of visiting Owey not to do so because it is unsafe.

“We need to get the government to announce proper funding so that we can fix the roads up to an acceptable level.”

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