There have been renewed calls for the provision of a new pier on the Great Blasket Island.

Fondúireacht an Bhlascaoid, a foundation responsible for the preservation of the Kerry island, says a new pier is required as a matter of urgency to ensure visitor safety.

However, conservationists have expressed concern over the possible impact the construction of a new pier could have on the island.

Over 10,000 people visit the Blasket Island every year. Due to the shallow nature of the small harbour, passengers must be transferred from ferries to smaller dinghies in order to land.

Pádraig Firtéar, chairman of Fondúireacht an Bhlascaoid says the OPW managed island deserves better landing facilities.

"The Blasket Island is known the world over for its rich history and literary tradition. The current landing arrangements are not satisfactory. It can be very difficult for elderly people or less mobile people to land. We need easier and safer access to the island."

Passengers being transferred to small dinghies to land on the island

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin raised the issue in the Dáil last week, highlighting the inadequate nature of the current landing facilities. Minister of State for the OPW, Patrick O'Donovan has agreed to visit the Blasket Island in early April in order to inspect the existing slipway.

However, An Taisce has expressed concern over the proposal to construct a new pier in an "extremely sensitive location".

Greg Casey says the island and the waters which surround it are areas of immense environmental importance.

"The island is an SPA, it’s an SAC and it also has protection under European Commission's Natura 2000 network. The building of a large pier in such a sensitive place could have a devastating impact on wildlife and marine mammals.

"There is also a danger that a new pier, allowing easier access, could result in the island being overrun with visitors, and have a detrimental effect on the island’s wildlife and landscape. If a new pier is going to cause negative impacts then it should not be allowed," he said.

In 2002, €8.5 million was earmarked for a new pier on the Blasket, along with improvements to the pier on the mainland in Dún Chaoin. However, due to delays caused by a planning dispute the project was eventually abandoned.

Donncha Ó Céilleachair, who owns a cottage and farms sheep on the island, says improved landing facilities are urgently needed.

"We’re not talking about a big massive pier here. We don’t want to see big liners pulling in and crowds of people coming ashore like the Aran islands. But we do need a better pier.

"It can be highly dangerous work using the old slipway when we have to carry provisions and building materials in to the island, or when we are trying to take sheep off the island."

The last permanent residents were evacuated from the Blasket in 1953.

The island community was renowned for its storytelling and literary output, which features the memoirs of Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig Sayers and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin.