Lighthouse tour operator critical of Fastnet plan to reduce beam

March 5th, 2018 1:10 PM

By Jackie Keogh

John Eagle has written the popular book ‘Ireland's Lighthouses'.

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A WEST Cork photographer, famous for his studies of Irish Lighthouses, has criticised the plan to replace the light at the Fastnet Lighthouse with an LED fitting.

‘I think it is terrible and unnecessary,’ said John Eagle, who conducts lighthouse tours throughout Ireland, and has written the popular book ‘Ireland’s Lighthouses’.

The Commissioners of Irish Lights, which maintains navigational points around Ireland, has plans to install an LED light, which will reduce the existing beam from 27 to 18 nautical miles.

John Eagle told The Southern Star he doesn’t understand the reasoning behind the move, given that the mercury used in the current system cannot be taken off the Fastnet Rock without incurring enormous expense.

He said there isn’t a safe way of removing the mercury because the top of the lighthouse would have to be taken off in order to remove the lantern.

‘If they are going to leave the mercury, they might as well leave the light,’ he added.

John said he understands that seafarers don’t really need the Fastnet as a guiding light anymore, because most ships have GPS and satellite systems, and that the light now just marks the rock itself.

The photographer, who has visited every other lighthouse in the country, pointed out another concern involving covering the existing lens.

He said: ‘The lens will magnify the sun so they have to protect the bulbs inside the lens, which could mean placing a large blanket around the lantern. That is something that you would see out at sea and it would be unsightly. I saw it at Tory Island and it looked horrible.’

John said: ‘The existing light has range and reach and looks majestic. It is part of our heritage. The LED won’t look so good.

I have seen the LED lights at Tory and they look like car headlights.’

The chairperson of the Schull Business and Tourism Association, Deirdre Ní Challanáin, also spoke to The Southern Star on behalf of local business and tourism groups who have similar concerns.

She said: ‘They have expressed their concerns due to the historic nature of the lighthouse. They believe the Fastnet Lighthouse is an iconic feature in West Cork and they would oppose any move to diminish the light.’

Capt Robert McCabe, who is the director of operations and navigation with the Commissioners of Irish Lights, confirmed that a public meeting will take place at the Sailing Centre in Schull at 7pm on Monday, March 5th next.

‘At that meeting,’ he said, ‘we will provide detailed information about the project to the community and listen to their views. The outward appearance of the Fastnet won’t change as a result of the project.’

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