IT’s the story that keeps on giving – The Southern Star has been writing about the nuclear bunker at Liss Ard Estate for the past three decades, but this week the story reared its head again, although the exact location of the bunker has still not been revealed.
With tension between the US and North Korea mounting, Skibbereen has been identified as one of the safest places on the planet, given the presence of a nuclear bunker at the lake-front property, which is located just 3.5km from the town centre.
Although that won’t be anything new to loyal readers of The Southern Star.
In the early 1970s, the estate was bought by the Swiss government and a purpose-built bunker was installed in order to create a bolthole for governmental officials seeking to flee from the threat of nuclear war.
This week, Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) revisited the subject when the Minister for Tourism, Shane Ross TD, attended a meeting at the town’s tourist office in North Street.
The Fianna Fáil councillor said anyone wishing to escape the threat of nuclear war would be welcome in Skibbereen – a town that has a population of over 2,600.
Cllr Carroll recalled how Colonel Albert Bachmann, the head of the Swiss military intelligence, had determined that West Cork, in general, and Skibbereen, in particular, would be a safe haven.
Secure behind its high gates on the Tragumna Road, the house has always been, and remains to this day, comfortably grand and its beautiful walled garden continues to produce vegetables for the main house.
Today, Liss Ard Estate offers luxury accommodation to paying guests – as well as operating as a retreat for the rich and famous like Bono, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill and Gabriel Byrne to mention but a few – but the owners are also happy to allow it to be the venue for a variety of community events, such as SCAR and the Down and Dirty race.
Back in the 1970s, hi-tech computers were installed at Liss Ard for governmental purposes, and rumours abound of strong rooms and vaults that were designed to store Swiss gold reserves.
Recent visitors will attest to the fact that there is no gold bullion lying around the place, and the new owners are remaining tight-lipped about the location of the nuclear bunker because, for them, it is ‘business as usual.’
It was in the 1980s the Swiss government arrived at the conclusion that a nuclear war between the US and the USSR was no longer a threat, so they sold the property.
That might have been the end of the story for the government, but not for Col Albert, who remained on until his death in 2011. But as the war of words between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues, the people of Skibbereen can take comfort in the fact that the clean, green and serene beauty of West Cork has not escaped the attention of some global leaders.