Aran Islands Reopening“We can do this as long as we’re safe and follow the rules.”

As heard on Today with Claire Byrne

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As the country slowly moves out of level 5 restrictions, the tourism industry is gearing up for the summer, one that it hopes will be fuelled by people’s pent-up, lockdown-fed desire to go anywhere at all, as long as it’s more than 5km from their house. On Today with Claire Byrne, reporter Brian O’Connell bravely ventured to the sunny Aran Islands to gauge their readiness to receive visitors when accommodation services are scheduled to reopen in early June. Brian was on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, population 8-900, where they’re expecting multiples of that number to land on their shore every day over the summer. But while business owners are hugely enthusiastic about large numbers of tourists coming to Inis Mór over the summer, not everyone is convinced it’s a great idea: 

Some islanders, though, think perhaps that the ramping up of visitors is happening just that little bit too quickly over the coming weeks.” 

Inis Mór has traditionally never suffered from a lack of visitors but many of them chose to visit on a daytrip basis only, meaning tourist spend was down compared to people who stayed overnight. Aran Island Camping & Glamping, set up in 2016, is doing its best to provide a solution to issue, with pods suitable for 4-6 people situated two metres from the beach. They’re fully booked out until the autumn. Brian spoke to manager Frankie Moran and she told him that they cannot wait to see people on the island again. 

“We’re very lucky this year. We thought it was going to be very difficult to get bookings, but we’re now fully booked straight through until the end of September.” 

And Frankie was at pains to stress that, in her opinion, camping and glamping on the beach in Inis Mór is not a health risk: 

“Our product is outdoor, it’s spaced apart, you’re at the beach. It couldn’t be any safer. Enough of the doom and gloom. We can do this as long as we’re safe and follow the rules.” 

As mentioned, though, some islanders are advising a more cautious approach to reopening. Brian spoke to local GP, Dr Marian Broderick: 

It’s good for people to be able to travel and get out, but taking people from one end of the country to the other in all directions is probaly a very good recipe for spreading infection as well.” 

Dr Broderick told Brian that many islanders, particularly older residents, are apprehensive. She said her personal opinion is that we probably should have waited a few more weeks until more people are vaccinated.  

Brian also met musician and sea captain Robert Hilton on the island. Robert is coming up to the 65th anniversary of his first signing on to his first ship and he gave Brian a taste of his sea shanty prowess, which you can hear, along with the rest of Brian’s report from the Aran Islands, by going here. You can also see Robert in full flow on Brian’s Twitter feed here.

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2021

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