A £1million refurbishment project at Rathlin Island, part-funded by DAERA, will deliver economic and social benefits for the island community, Rural Development Minister Michelle McIlveen said.
During a day-long visit to the iconic north coast island the minister toured the newly refurbished Manor House and learnt more about the island’s celebrated bird population at the West Light Seabird Centre.
Welcoming the completion of the Manor House refurbishment Project Michelle McIlveen said: “The Manor House is of great significance to the island and I am delighted that my department has been able to support the Rathlin Development and Community Association with funding of £250,000 to realise its dream of bringing the property back in to use. The fully functioning Manor House has the potential to become a thriving social economic enterprise, generating income for the local community.
“My officials have been working closely with the community in Rathlin on a number of projects, including the refurbishment of the Manor House and I am delighted to see that the work has now been completed successfully.”
Following acquisition of the Manor House through a long term lease, Rathlin Development and Community Association (RDCA), undertook a major refurbishment programme to upgrade the interior and exterior of the Grade B+ listed building to 3* Guest Inn standard. The refurbishment project was completed following funding of £734,000 from Coastal Communities Fund and £250,000 from DAERA’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme.
Michael Cecil, chairperson of Rathlin Development and Community Association, said: “We are delighted to welcome the minister to the refurbished Manor House and we are grateful for the support of her department, without which this project would not have come to fruition.”
Whilst on the island, Minister McIlveen took a tour of the RSPB’s refurbished West Light Seabird Centre, where she discussed with RSPB NI Director, Joanne Sherwood, the ongoing work between the RSPB, RDCA, and NIEA in protecting marine life and encouraging the return of birds such as the corncrake and chough.
Michelle McIlveen added: “I was delighted to have the opportunity of viewing the newly refurbished Seabird Centre here on Rathlin Island and I’m sure tourists will enjoy the views and sightings of specific breeds of birds, especially during the renowned puffin season.
“I welcome the positive approach that both RSPB and RDCA take to the protection and management of local wildlife on Rathlin. My department is committed to the protection of Rathlin European Marine Site and will continue to oversee the implementation of the actions that have been identified in the European Marine Site Management Scheme in partnership with both the RSPB and RDCA.”
RSPB NI Director Joanne Sherwood said: “I was delighted to welcome Minister McIlveen to our seabird centre on Rathlin and see first-hand our conservation work on the island and to discuss future priorities. This was a great opportunity for her to learn about our work, and the work of many local farmers, in helping to reverse the declines of species and habitats in the wider countryside across Northern Ireland and how a healthy natural environment is closely connected to a healthy local economy.”
The Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre, managed by the RSPB, has recently undergone major refurbishment and re-opened to the public in March 2016. It is home to one of the UK’s largest seabird colonies.