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Campaign launched to reignite life on Donegal island

The island of Inishtrahull.

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to repopulate a tiny island off the north coast of Donegal.

Inishtrahull, Ireland’s most northerly island, lies ten kilometres off Malin Head.

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The island, which measures just 0.34 square kilometres in size, had a thriving resident community in the early part of the 20th century.

Most of those who resided on Inishtrahull earned their livelihoods from fishing but over-fishing by Scottish, English and French trawlers eventually forced most islanders to abandon their homes.

According to census figures the last six residents left Inishtrahull in 1986. The local lighthouse remained manned until 1987 but the island has remained uninhabited since.

But a drive to repopulate and to resurrect life on Inishtrahull has just been launched by English man Nicholas Worthington.

Mr Worthington, an International Relations and Conflict Studies student at Queen’s University, has established the ‘Inishtrahull National Independence Committee’, campaigning for the ‘Independence of Inishtrahull, the Garvan Isles and the Tor rocks’.

The student told the Donegal News he realised that it was not an overnight project but something that could take many years. He said though he was committed to reigniting a community on the island.

“I believe that Inishtrahull was subjected to a great injustice,” said Mr Worthington.

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“It was a community and while it must have been difficult to live there, that community thrived. What happened to Inishtrahull could have been prevented so this feels like the right thing to do and I am deeply committed to its history, its culture and its future.”

The 19-year-old said he stumbled upon the story of the deserted island while living in Belfast and “fell in love with it”.

“I was brought up in England but I’m now living in Belfast. I have family in Donegal and I’ve travelled the county extensively.

“When I discovered Inishtrahull, its story and its history I just fell in love with it.

“In the 1920s, Ireland had just become the Free State but the issue for Inishtrahull was this huge over-fishing. Islanders only had small boats but they had sustained them for centuries.

“Then in 1925 you had these English, Scottish and French trawlers who illegally stripped the waters to the point where life on the island became unsustainable. Residents were forced to leave and that was due to failings on behalf of not only the Irish Government but local Donegal administration at the time. These big shipping companies were stripping Irish waters and they put up no fight to stop them.”

Mr Worthington said he was under no illusion about how long the project could take. He refused to put a timeline on it but said he and the rest of the committee realised it could take many years.

“At the moment it is just about building as much interest as possible and reminding people the island is there and just how special a part of Ireland it is. We are still a very young organisation with a very small team of people but our aim is to get more people interested and hopefully get them to play an active role on our committee.”

The Inishtrahull National Independence Committee has pinpointed April 18 next year as a day of celebration and says it hopes to get the local Inishowen History Society, local churches and Donegal County Council on board with the campaign.

You can follow the committee on Twitter, @inicommittee

Did you live on Inishtrahull or do you know someone who did? We would love to hear from you. Email us at c.sharkey@donegalnews.com or send us a private message to our Facebook page.

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Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland