Tuesday 11 December 2018

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80 years at home for Spike Island

Wednesday, 11th July, 2018 5:12pm

Spike Island celebrated a hugely significant anniversary yesterday.

Up to 400 guests were in attendance at the eightieth anniversary commemoration of the handover of the island from Britain to Ireland. These included the Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy and Cork County Council Chief Executive Tim Lucey.

Celebrations were in full flow with up to 90 members of the Irish defence force took part in the ceremony, providing a full honour guard, military band, a 21 gun salute and an air corp flypast.

The event marked 80 years to the day that Fort Mitchel, then Fort Westmoreland, was handed from Britain to Ireland, a full 17 years after the treaty of 1921.

Spike Island would become one of three treaty ports which Britain retained as part of the treaty agreements, with the forts at Cork Harbour considered too strategically important to relinquish to the fledgling state.

A contingent of 300 troops led by Major Maher made their way to the island on 11 July, and out of courtesy, witnessed the lowering of the British flag and the playing of the British national anthem.

Major Maher then accepted the fort from the British and when the last British soldier had departed the island he was joined by the then Taoiseach Eamon De Valera and a contingent of dignitaries

Speaking at yesterday's event, Cllr Murphy noted: “Since the handover of 1938, Spike Island has been used by the Irish Army during ‘the Emergency’, as World War 2 was known in Ireland - right up until 1979 before it was handed over to the Irish Naval Service, became a prison once again in 1985, serving this role until 2004. Spike Island has now begun a new chapter in what is an incredible history. It is now a top tourist success, thanks to the people of Cork who have invested and believed in the potential we have around us.”

Cork County Council Chief Executive Tim Lucey spoke of how the Council realised the huge potential of Spike Island and the ongoing plans to continue to develop the island.

“Spike Island has welcomed close to 100,000 visitors and almost doubled its numbers in 2017 to 45,000 visitors annually. The island now has over ten fulltime employees and up to 40 seasonal part time workers, and in 2017 the attraction contributed an estimated €6.5 million to Cobh's economy.

“We have ambitious plans to increase the ferry capacity, add an international welcome hub on the pier, all with the specific focus of increasing international visitors to the island, making the attraction self sustainable and a jewel in the crown of Muster tourism.”

Spike Island’s General Manager John Crotty said: “On that day in 1938 our island nation grew just a little larger in size, but infinitely larger in stature.”

For more on Spike Island, see page 35.

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