Ireland was represented at the ESIN/European Small Islands Federation AGM and seminar (Sept 11-13) on the Orkney Islands by two members of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann: John Walsh, Bere Island (Co Cork) and Mairtin O Méalóid, Oileán Chléire (Co Cork).

ESIN Orkney

The graveyard at Orphir Round Kirk, Orkney. Photo John Walsh

“Small islands are ‘the agents of change’ that can be trusted to make the low carbon revolution happen in Europe,” declared Brendan Devlin, special advisor to DG Energy.

Vice-chair of ESIN, John Walsh, added that renewable energy “has the potential” to develop Irish islands to become leaders in energy, R&D, new technologies wave, tidal energy and smart grid development.

“It was a great experience for [us] all to visit the Orkney islands – well-known for their cutting-edge leadership in renewable technology,” he remarked. 

The group of 32 islanders from thirteen countries visited the small island of Shapinsay (300 inhabitants) where a development trust has been established to create income through wind power. Their wind turbine, ‘Whorley’, generates £90,000 annually, which is spent on community projects; running a freee minibus; an electric taxi for islanders and visitors, and a 12-seater ‘out of hours’ ferry to afford islanders more flexibility in their travel arrangements.

Mairtin O Méalóid, vice-chair of CoE said the Orkney food and produce brand, along wtih the Danish Island Produce Brand, were “inspirational”.

“As a small island food producer myself, I am pleased that we are looking to introduce a similar designation for the producers in our small European islands. We have established a working group and intend to have an islands brand up and running in the near future. This will identify authentic island products that meet agreed criteria and will help with marketing and of course additional employment in the food and drink sectors on the islands.”

Camile Dressler, leader of the Scottish Islands Federation, said the results of the AGM would be brought to Brussels next year.

“In the meantime, we will continue to push for the needs of the smaller islands of Europe to be recognised and addressed, especially in the context of the Territorial Cohesion Policy post 2020 and Brexit.”