Local government body to hear about fight to keep beam

Local government body to hear about fight to keep beam

2 October 2019

THE campaign to retain the sweeping beam at St John’s Point Lighthouse near Killough is to be raised with the umbrella body for Northern Ireland’s 11 district councils.

News of the decision to raise the issue with the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) comes after a 

recent public meeting when those opposed to change issued a firm “hands off” warning to the Commissioner of Irish Lights.

The meeting called for the current mechanism which rotates a huge Fresnel lens in a mercury bath to be retained and for plans to replace the current light with a modern LED to be scrapped.

Irish Lights officials insist that the planned changes are “minimal” and will not result in major changes to the iconic sweeping beam.

However, it’s a claim rejected by local people including the Lecale Lightkeepers campaign group who say the beam’s range will be reduced by up to nine miles, if the changes are allowed to proceed.

In addition to fitting a new LED light, Commissioners want to remove the mercury from the lighthouse’s current rotating lens mechanism and replace it with a German-made alternative which has been trialled for the past three years.

Irish Lights insist that the engineering works planned for St John’s Point will deliver a “better quality, environmentally superior solution which meets modern health and safety requirements.” 

They say they are simply removing mercury out of the rotating lens system and putting in a new “innovative mechanical bearing solution”, insisting that the changes are not being driven by any directive to make savings.

Councillor Dermot Curran — who is a former NILGA president — plans to raise the issue with the organisation in a bid to ensure there are no changes at the lighthouse. He said nothing must be done to harm its heritage.

Cllr Curran also agrees with those suggesting that investment should be earmarked for the lighthouse to increase its tourism potential, providing a major tourist attraction and an economic boost for the area.

“The key point for local people is retaining the sweeping beam and its unique rotation system in its current form. It must not be altered in any way,” he declared.

“The maritime history and heritage of St John’s Point and its uniqueness must be retained. We have a beautiful lighthouse which is unique in so many ways. People are demanding it must be retained in its current form and it must happen.”

Cllr Curran says he hopes that NILGA will support the campaign to retain the beam in its current form, given that it is working perfectly.

The Commissioner insists that the planned changes at St John’s Point Lighthouse are “minimal” and that plans to replace the existing filament light with a modern LED will not result in major changes to the sweeping beam.

It’s an argument which Cllr Curran said local people “simply won’t buy”. 

He added: “Those driving change insist that their proposals will deliver a better quality, environmentally superior solution which aligns with current health and safety requirements, many in the community simply do not agree.

“They want the current system, which has been in operation for well over a century retained. I fully agree and we will settle for nothing less.”