BY HELEN RIDDELL
THE first phase of the restoration of Lonehort Battery, a former World War I gun battery on Bere Island, was officially opened on Friday, June 14th, by Minister Sean Kyne, the Government Chief Whip and minister with responsibility for the Irish islands.
A large crowd attended the event, including members of the Irish Defence Forces, local councillors, representatives of Cork County Council and the Heritage Council. ]Lonehort Battery is one of seven gun batteries on Bere Island built during the early 1900s, the site is owned by the Department of Defence, who have granted a licence to Bere Island Projects Group (BIPG) to restore it as a visitor attraction.
Eugene Glendon, chair of BIPG, welcomed the assembled crowd to what he outlined was ‘a major opportunity for us to publicise and develop this hidden treasure which will be an enormous attraction for the south west region.’
Minister Kyne said he was delighted to be invited to open the first phase of Lonehort Battery’s restoration, and pledged to assist BIPG in completing the project: ‘Lonehort Battery has huge potential in terms of tourism and will need further investment.
‘We will liaise with the Department of Defence and other departments to get more substantial funding into the battery open it up as a major tourist site for the locality.’
Bere Island historian Barry Hanley spoke of the strategic importance of the Lonehort Battery and how it came to be built as a means to protect the British fleet which lay at anchor in Berehaven Harbour and outlined how its 6-inch coastal artillery guns were maintained in working order until as recently as 1988. ‘When Fort Berehaven was handed back to the Irish Government in 1938, a condition attached to the handover was the guns were to be kept in working order for a further 50 years.’
Regular guided tours of Lonehort Battery are now taking place.
For further details see www.bereisland.net