Permission has been granted for the restoration of open sea diving at Fenit, Co Kerry - the most westerly commercial port in Ireland – heralding the return of an activity that has thrilled generations of local people.

A golden age of diving began 100 years ago in the harbour town just 11kms west of Tralee..

But diving in Fenit shut down almost 20 years ago after a claim against the old Tralee swimming club, and remained shut after concerns by the council - owners of the slip - about health and safety .

However, the memory of those days lingered and a book by Billy Ryle, a member of the restoration committee set up three years ago, captured the history.

The intense campaign to bring back diving to Fenit focused on revival as well as the value to tourism of open air diving boards on the Wild Atlantic Way and the development of sport facilities at what is a deep water port as well as leisure and sailing spot on Tralee Bay.

After studying the diving boards at Kilkee, Co Clare, the proposals by the Fenit Development Association involved two diving boards - 2m and 3.5m high - on the Fenit Bathing Slips.

There has also been widespread consultation with Irish Water and other water activity authorities.

The higher diving board will be allowed, but the lower platform is being omitted under the conditions and amendments.

Other amendments include the provision of an additional ladder on the eastern side of the higher platform.

There will be around three hours of diving time at high tides in depths of almost four metres into the open sea.

The permission includes modification of existing concrete structures, construction of new diving boards, walkway, and access platforms as well as railings for people coming out of the sea.

Fenit Harbour in Co Kerry

The diving plinth will not be in the original location after the council ruled it out because of the shallowness of the sea at that spot.

Kerry County Council approved the plans in 2019. However, the decision was appealed by third parties including the Tralee Bay Swimming Club.

The club supports the restoration of  diving boards at Fenit, but wanted a simpler design that would not intrude on views of Tralee Bay or cast a shadow over a sun trap on the bathing slip.

Chairman of the Fenit Development Association Mike O'Neill said it was waiting to study the conditions but after "three years of a hard slog" its members were delighted.

They had consulted widely and adhered to the strict guidelines in place for diving facilities. "This was something worth fighting for," he said

The plans had to be robust and thorough enough for "the next 50 years," he said. "We are delighted. This will be for people all over Kerry," Mr O’Neill said.

The next step would be the difficult one of fundraising and he expected the project would go out to tender soon.