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July 11, 2023

Comparing island lives

Whether it is due to the interminable ferry fiasco, the perpetual housing crisis or the additional cost of everything, life on our islands seems pretty precarious. And while there’s always a temptation for the grass to appear greener, in this case, on the other side of the Irish Sea, it’s hard not to be impressed with the Irish Government’s new ten year strategy – Our Living Islands – which focuses on their thirty inhabited islands. Perhaps this year’s Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament, due to be held in Fort William, might do a ‘compare and contrast’ with our own National Islands Plan.

Government of Ireland

Our coastal islands and their communities are an integral part of the fabric of rural Ireland. They also an integral part of the State’s heritage and have a special significance in Irish culture.

There are around 30 islands off the coast of Ireland that are new cut off daily by the tide, are not connected to the mainland by a bridge or causeway, have permanent year-round populations and are not in private ownership.

Good transport services and a developed infrastructure are important prerequisites for maintaining island populations. The Department’s aim is to seek to meet these requirements through current and capital investment via the Department itself and through other relevant Departments and organisations.

Our Living Islands is a 10-year national policy for these off-shore islands, and was published in June 2023.

The aim of this policy is to ensure that sustainable, vibrant communities can continue to live – and thrive – on the offshore islands for many years to come.

Related to that aim is our ambition that visitors to the islands can continue to experience and appreciate the unique culture, heritage and environmental richness that the islands have to offer.

This whole-of-Government policy has been developed following an extensive consultation process with the island communities and other stakeholders.

Our Living Islands – National Islands Policy 2023-2033


The policy is underpinned by five high-level strategic objectives, identified by islanders themselves as being of key importance for the sustainable future of their communities:

  1. Revitalise population levels on the islands
  2. Diversify island economies
  3. Enhance Health and Wellbeing services
  4. Empower Island Communities
  5. Build smart sustainable futures

The policy is accompanied by an Action Plan for the period 2023-2026 that includes 80 time-bound actions which will be implemented by various stakeholders, led by a nominated Government Department or State Agency.

Some of the specific actions of this policy are;

  • Providing island-specific additional grant support under the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant (Croí Cónaithe) to encourage utilisation of existing properties for the provision of long-term residential accommodation.
  • Deliver high-speed broadband to broadband connection points (BCPs), digital hubs and schools on the islands under the National Broadband Plan (NBP), and drive remote working from islands and enable greater access to education and training courses.
  • Pilot eHealth Pods on islands and utilise BCPs and remote working hubs to improve access to online health appointments.
  • Ensure that island communities’ voices are heard through the establishment and support of a forum for ongoing dialogue between the island communities, Local Authorities and relevant stakeholders.

Our Living Islands – Action Plan 2023-2026