Govt looks at alternative uses for Connemara airstrips

The unused airstrip on Inishbofin.

The Government has no immediate plans to use two airstrips in Connemara for the purpose they were built.

Gaeltacht Minister Seán Kyne has ruled out, in the medium term, a plan to use the airstrips at Cleggan and Inishbofin as commuter airports between the mainland and North Connemara island.

Minister Kyne said his department officials are examining two alternative proposals for future use of the airstrips, following a public consultation process that was initiated in 2017. Some 113 submissions about the airstrips were received by the Department.

He said the Department is in discussions with the Irish Coast Guard with a view to utilising part of the site at Cleggan for the provision of a Coast Guard Station.

In the case of the site on Inishbofin, the Department is in discussions with the HSE with a view to the use of part of the site to locate a Health Care Centre for the island.

“Any such developments will need to be agreed with the relevant regulatory bodies and planning bodies having regard to the original purpose for which the sites were developed. It is also important to point out that any development undertaken at this time will not prejudice the potential future use of the airstrips for the provision of air services to Inishbofin,” said Minister Kyne.

He was responding to questions in the Dáil from fellow Galway West TDs, Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) and Catherine Connolly (Ind).

Deputy Ó Cuív, in a statement, reiterated the view that the airstrips should be opened and used as airstrips. He said that they could be lumped-in with the new contract for air services to the Aran Islands, which is soon up for renewal.

“There is no reason that in a new contract to be issued by the Department for air services to the Aran Islands next autumn, Inisbofin would not be included for at least a three or four day a week service. This would include a service linking Connemara Airport to Cleggan and to Bofin, giving the people of Inisbofin and visitors to Inisbofin, a choice of leaving from either Connemara Airport or Cleggan and going to the Island. As the air company already has the airplanes and all other back-up in Inverin, the extra cost to providing a service to Inisbofin would be minimal, as it could all be done within the existing working day of the pilots,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

He said the Government, if it is serious about islands, needs to invest in 21st century services, “otherwise the islands will decay and this will cost a lot more to the State than to develop them to their full potential.”

Deputy Ó Cuív added: “The islands provide for Ireland, a shop window that many people associate with the core of our natural heritage, our culture and a way of life that has disappeared in many other places.”