‘TOTALLY DIFFERENT PROJECT’ Cllr Michael Loftus
A FIANNA Fáil councillor wants to bring a former Royal Navy destroyer into Killala Bay and sink it - to make it an attraction for divers.
The vision for an artificial reef at the bottom of Killala Bay was outlined by Crossmolina-based councillor Michael Loftus, who described the project of one of his ‘pets’.
Cllr Loftus explained the idea of sinking a type two destroyer in Killala Bay was to generate tourism and claimed it will generate over €27 million over five years for the region.
“We don’t have wrecks in the west of Ireland. We have wrecks from World War I and World War II in the north and south of Ireland but none off the west coast of Ireland.
“The whole point of trying to bring a wreck in Killala Bay is to bring diving tourism to the west of Ireland - and it can be a joint effort between Mayo and Sligo,” he told last week’s meeting of the Tourism SPC held in the Great National Hotel in Ballina.
A three minute presentation was shown by Cllr Loftus to the members of the SPC which showed the sinking of a similar ship in Canada and he explained how the project will benefit the area. He said dive centres will be established in Killala and Enniscrone and there will be boats ‘in and out’ bringing divers to the wreck.
“The revenue generated will be roughly €3 million for the first year raised to over €27m by the fifth year. The big thinking of Fáilte Ireland is to have bed nights and they say 15,000 bed nights will be generated and up to 61,000 after five years.
“In England the wreck, the HMS Scylla, saw over 100 million people watch it being sank. There was a competition to press the button and over 1 million people applied to press the button. Imagine the PR you get out of that,” he said.
Cllr Loftus, who is a member of the Gráinne Uaile Sub Aqua Club, said a feasibility study was carried out almost ten years ago but the economic climate put paid to their plans. He said they have held talks with British government representatives to buy a ship for €500,000 and added it will be cleaned out to ensure it is eco-friendly and safe for divers. He also claimed wrecks were a ‘magnet’ for fish and would be welcomed by local fishermen.
“We have done a fair bit of work to it. We did all our homework and looked at it in 2008, 09, and 10 but of course the climate was wrong at the time but we are coming at a time to look at it again.
“You can put cameras on it [the wreck] and linked to the mainland and have live feeds. One of the biggest things is there is no maintenance and costs involved...there is a lifespan of 50 years involved. It is a totally different project and the fact is it not in any other county.”
Cllr Loftus said he hoped the new Tourism, Recreation and Amenity Department of Mayo County Council will consider the project and said there were only pluses from it. Head of Tourism, Padraig Philbin welcomed Cllr Loftus’ suggestion saying that the new Rural and Regeneration and Development Fund in Minister Ring’s department may be an avenue in securing funds.