'Cautious optimism' that Skellig Michael will open to public on schedule

Workers have been dealing with a major rockfall that was discovered earlier this month

'Cautious optimism' that Skellig Michael will open to public on schedule

Image after recent rockfall on Skellig Michael. Image: OPW

The Office of Public Works (OPW) says it is "cautiously optimistic" that Skellig Michael will open to the public on schedule next month.

A major rockfall was discovered on the island off the coast of Co Kerry earlier this month.

Specialists have since surveyed the affected slopes, and the OPW say there is currently no large material threatening the Lightouse Road.

While the island is set to open to the public for its annual visiting season on May 14th, authorities warn that will depend on weather conditions as a 'prolonged period' of wet weather could impact vulnerable areas.

In a statement, the OPW said: "The OPW reminds potential visitors that the Island remains in an extremely dangerous condition and should, under no circumstances, be accessed by anyone other than the official project team and their contractors.

"Visitor access, when it is restored, will have to be strictly supervised. It is envisaged that this can be managed safely on a controlled basis.  The Monastery itself is, it has been confirmed, entirely undamaged and, apart from clearing of winter debris, will be available for visitors to enjoy as normal."

The OPW has also announced that 13 permits have been granted to boatmen to bring visitors to the island following an open competition.

On top of the two permits issued last year, it brings the total amount of current permits to 15 - which is the 'maximum sustainable number' allowed by the organisation.

Public interest in the Skellig Michael - which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - has increased after the island was used as a key location in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It also features prominently in the trailer for the upcoming sequel, The Last Jedi.