County Clare, IRELAND – Taoiseach Enda Kenny, T.D., today (Friday, 18 May 2012) officially opened the new exhibition at Loop Head Lighthouse and launched the 2012 visitor season at the historic West Clare tourist attraction.
Loop Head Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary, is steeped in history and rich in maritime heritage with its origins dating back to the 1670s. The Taoiseach’s grandfather was a keeper at the lighthouse. James John McGinley took up duty at the Lighthouse as Principal Keeper on 16th January 1933. He spent 1 year and 10 months at Loop Head. He was transferred from the station in October 1934.
Clare County Council, along with Shannon Development, Loop Head Tourism and the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), conducted a successful 11-week trial opening scheme in 2011 that resulted in an estimated 17,000 people visiting the landmark building. It is estimated that the trial opening of the Lighthouse was worth approximately €400,000 to the local economy.
Earlier this year, Shannon Images was appointed to produce an interpretation plan that would further enhance the overall visitor experience at the lighthouse. An exhibition focusing on the history of Irish lighthouses and the people who have operated them since the 17th century has been installed for the 2012 tourist season. All materials and labour for the project were sourced locally.
Speaking at the opening, the Taoiseach said: “The opening of the 2012 visitor season at Loop Head Lighthouse marks a special day for tourism in Ireland and for the people of West Clare. It’s an equally special day for me and my family. Because as I made my way here today, I was acutely aware that my journey was also a family journey. A journey that began 80 years ago, when my grandfather, James McGinley, arrived here to become the Principal Keeper at Loop Head.”
Speaking at today’s official opening, Mayor of Clare Councillor Pat Hayes said the Taoiseach’s visit to the lighthouse was testament to the contribution made by the Lighthouse to the local community and economy since the trial opening in 2011. Mayor Hayes noted that heritage tourism could play a significant role in the revival of the domestic tourism sector.
“The collaborative approach adopted by regional development agencies and the local community to enhancing the visitor experience at Loop Head is a model that could and should be replicated elsewhere throughout County Clare and, indeed, the rest of Ireland. Heritage tourism is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world and therefore, we should consider the possibility of opening up and promoting some of other many existing heritage sites and structures that currently remain inaccessible to the public”, stated Mayor Hayes.
According to Ruairi Deane, Shannon Development Tourism Product Development Executive: “Shannon Development is delighted to have worked with our partners on this unique and exciting project. The overall objective of the project partners has been to develop the Lighthouse as an anchor tourism attraction in West Clare with the potential to attract more visitors and generate additional revenue for the area, and we believe today’s official opening by the Taoiseach is another major step in fulfilling this aim. The new exhibition uses a wonderful blend of multi-media to tell the story of Loop Head Lighthouse and the surrounding area.”
Cillian Murphy, Chairman of Loop Head Tourism said: “The lighthouse visitor project builds on the designation of the Loop Head Peninsula as a ‘European Destination of Excellence’ (EDEN) by the European Commission and also links to other community projects such as the recent restoration of the World War 2 ‘EIRE’ sign nearby. These community initiatives complement the lighthouse project and will further reinforce the Loop Head peninsula as a quality sustainable tourism destination. Tourism development on the peninsula will affect all who live here and Loop Head Tourism have shown what can be achieved by developing our tourism products in conjunction with the peninsula community and our local authorities”
Mr. Murphy expressed confidence that the Taoiseach’s visit and personal connection with the Lighthouse would help to attract visitors to the area during the coming months. “Tourism operators and accommodation providers are also working closely with each other to further develop the Loop Head Peninsula’s growing reputation as a tourist destination for those that wish to have a different type of Irish holiday experience and our recent appointment of a ‘Tourism Animator’, which is funded by a Leader grant, gives us an opportunity to take another huge step in the right direction,” Mr. Murphy concluded.
The existing tower style lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the lighthouse compound. In January 1991, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, and today is in the care of an attendant and is also monitored by the CIL.
Loop Head Lighthouse officially opens to the public from tomorrow (Saturday, 19 May 2012) up to 3rd September 2012, creating 12 seasonal jobs. Visit www.loophead.ie, www.clare.ie or www.shannonregiontrails.ie for more information on Loop Head Lighthouse and the Loop Head Peninsula.