Award-winning film-maker of ‘The Pipe’ shocked at ‘deserted’ Burtonport

Risteard O'Domhnaill with Norwegian cod fisherman Bjørnar Nicolaisen.

Risteard O’Domhnaill with Norwegian cod fisherman Bjørnar Nicolaisen.

AN AWARD-winning film-maker has said he was ‘shocked’ to see how deserted a once thriving West Donegal fishing village had become.

Risteard Ó Domhnaill, award-winning director of The Pipe, was speaking this week on the announcement of his latest project breaking a crowd-funding record.


Atlantic is a new documentary, currently being filmed by Ó Domhnaill, which will explore the politics of resource management in the North Atlantic and has broken the record for monies raised on the Irish crowd-funding website sailing past the €30,000 marker.

The documentary follows embattled fishing communities in Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland as they struggle to maintain their way of life in the face of mounting challenges. 

As well as visiting the Donegal fishing port of Killybegs, Ó Domhnaill also paid a visit to the Rosses, to the once thriving fishing village of Burtonport.

He said: “I was really shocked at how deserted Burtonport was. I spoke to local pub owner Jimmy O’Donnell, who once also was a fisherman, and couldn’t believe the pictures on the wall of just 20 years ago and how thriving things were.

“The only activity in the harbour there now is the ferry to Arranmore, and seeing how quiet it was there, really left an impression on me.”

As well as telling the personal stories of families affected by the encroachment of major oil companies, the film will fully examine the scramble for resources in the North Atlantic, contrasting the liberal Irish approach with the systems at work in Norway and Newfoundland.

Ó Domhnaill said: “I visited a village, probably the same size as Burtonport, in Norway and saw how proactive the government there is in support small and large fishing vessels. 


“They have a very dynamic system of quota management compared to Ireland, and small fishermen a minimum quota they can fish, compared to the unfair system in place here.”

Ó Domhnaill sought a different funding approach for Atlantic and since September 2013 the project has grown beyond all expectations.

“I think the fact that we were so successful with our crowd-funding campaign shows how people are interested in this story being told.
“Through social media and the funding campaign we have gained a lot of publicity and so we have great momentum for when the film is released.”

The issue at the heart of Ó Domhnaill’s documentary is how we as a country manage our resources and can we change it. Filmed in some of the most remote and breathtaking locations in the North Atlantic, at close quarters with those at the epicentre of the issue, Atlantic will bring the critical offshore resource debate out into the open in early 2015.

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