A new €2.9m visitor experience which celebrates the Blasket Islands has been opened in west Kerry.

The project features a dramatic transformation of the exhibitions at the Blasket Centre (Ionad an Bhlascaoid) in Dún Chaoin.

The new installations celebrate the history and heritage of An Blascaod Mór and feature interactive displays, artefacts, audio visual presentations and artworks.

Funding for the €2.9m project has been provided by Fáilte Ireland, the Office of Public Works and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Manager at the centre Lorcán Ó Cinnéide says the new exhibition has used the latest technology to enhance the portrayal of the Blasket Islands and its people, while also maintaining the integrity of their story.

"Using new technology and display techniques we have brought the Blasket story in to the 21st century. I think we have created something that is extremely interesting and engaging for the tourist, but I also feel that it is faithful to the island tradition, that it is reflective of the living culture that we have here in terms of language, in terms of story," said Mr Ó Cinnéide

In the first half of the 20th century, the islands came to prominence as a rich bastion of the Irish language and native folklore.

Visiting scholars collected extensively and encouraged islanders to document their stories. The small island community produced a remarkable body of work as islanders such as Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Muiris Ó Súilleabháin and Peig Sayers provided an engaging record of everyday life on the remote island.

The island was abandoned in 1953 when the government resettled the last of the islanders on the mainland.

The revamped centre was officially opened today by Minister for State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Patrick O'Donovan and Máire Ní Shúilleabháin Uí Chíobháin, daughter of the Blasket writer Muiris Ó Súilleabháin who penned "Fiche Bliain ag Fás" (Twenty Years a Growing).

Máire Ní Shúilleabháin Uí Chíobháin said the new exhibition was a fitting tribute to the island community.

"I think they were a very special, unique people. There was something regal about them, the way they carried themselves. They gave us such treasures – the music and the stories. It's hugely important to honour that here because their memories will never die as long as this place is here."

The centre employs 20 people and is regarded as one of Kerry’s most important visitor attractions, receiving over 50,000 people every season.

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Following the extensive revamp, Fáilte Ireland expects the Centre to attract over 12,500 additional visitors annually.

The centre has been designated as a Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Point and it is complemented by the nearby cliff-top viewing platform which was opened in in 2020.

Head of Attractions at Fáilte Ireland Mary Stack says the Blasket Centre forms a key element in the organisations tourism strategy in the southwest.

"It’s important that we continue to reinvest in our visitor attractions and also projects like this deliver really substantial benefits to the local economy. This investment will bring 1.6m euro to the wider Kerry community and it will also help support over 250 jobs in the region.

Minister O’Donovan said attention will now turn to enhancing the landing facilities on the island itself.

He said: "It’s important that we can get people out there safely. At the moment it’s very weather dependent and mooring facilities are poor.

"OPW, with Kerry County Council and other partners in government will turn attention now to enhancing the landing facilities on the Blasket, while also taking into account the challenges such development poses for the sensitive nature of the site in terms of landscape and biodiversity."