Caretaker vacancy on one of Ireland’s most remote islands up for grabs again

ireland
Caretaker Vacancy On One Of Ireland’s Most Remote Islands Up For Grabs Again
Last year more than 40,000 applications were made for caretaker jobs on the remote Great Blasket Island.
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Sarah Slater

A job vacancy on one of the country’s most iconic islands, which has no hot running water and electricity, is up for grabs again.

Last year more than 40,000 applications were made for two summer caretaker jobs on the remote Great Blasket Island, home to the late author and storyteller Peig Sayers, whose writings formed part of the Leaving Cert Irish curriculum.

Billy O’Connor and his partner Alice Hayes, who own three cottages and a coffee shop on the island, are to post the vacancies on social media this week.

The couple were inundated with enquiries last year by phone, email, social media messages and paper applications from around the world, including Mexico, Finland and Argentina.

The flood of applications heralded international media attention after more than 23,000 people had applied for the job barely a week after it was listed — leaving Mr O'Connor and Ms Hayes stunned that so many wanted to live on a windswept Atlantic island.

Living conditions

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Located about three miles off the coast of Dingle, Co Kerry, the Great Blasket Island is home to a huge amount of animal, sea and plant life. The island is over four miles long and consists of largely mountainous terrain, while there are also some ancient ruins for visitors to explore.

Over the past several months the couple have been carrying out some essential tasks, including adding another bedroom to one of the cottages and upgrading other amenities.

“We are going to post the jobs up again on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram this week with a link to the application form and a frequently asked questions section,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We’ve decided to add some job criteria as last year when we started to receive applications it took us a month just to get through them. It’s absolutely fantastic that so many people want to come here but many didn’t realise what the living conditions are like,” he explained.

Mr O’Connor added that with pandemic travel restrictions which will be in place for an expected months to come, he does not expect as many interested couples or friends to apply.

“We would like a duo of friends or a couple from abroad to get the jobs eventually as they would have a different perspective to bring, but with concerns around Covid-19 that will limit foreign applications I would think. But maybe they would feel safer on the island as it is very remote.

Previous caretakers

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“We have had two Irish couples working as caretakers so far. It does get very busy on the island with visitors in the height of the summer so the people who get the job have to be able for that.

“But so far we’ve learned from the two couples who have worked as caretakers on what aspects work and do not work and how to make the visitor experience better,” he said.

The previous couple to act as the island’s caretakers were Annie Birney and Eoin Boyle from Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, who moved to the isolated island on June 24th and opened it up to visitors for a shorter three-month period due to Covid-19 restrictions last year.

In 2019, Kildare couple Leslie Kehoe and Gordon Bond also served as caretakers.

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Mr O’Connor’s links to the island date back to when his grandfather and granduncle bought the landmass, which eventually ended up in lengthy and costly legal battles in the High and Supreme Courts against the State and Charles Haughey over ownership and use rights.

Mr Haughey personally piloted the controversial An Blascaod Mor National Historic Parks Act through the Oireachtas in 1989, with the aim of making the Great Blasket a State park.

After an 11-year legal battle, Mr Haughey's plan was laid to rest when the Supreme Court upheld a High Court ruling that the Act was unconstitutional.

The Act was designed to enable the then Taoiseach to nurture a dream to create a major tourist centre off the south-west coast, but the legislation caused an outcry from a handful of landowners on the Great Blasket.

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