Cape Clear island celebrates a connected Christmas thanks to mast effort

22 Dec 2022

Cape Clear islanders Sean Ó Drisceoil, Kevin McCann, Mairtín Ó Méalóid and Patsy Ó Drisceoil enjoying the new mobile coverage on the island. Image: Micheal MacSweeney

The people of Cape Clear worked to install a tower to provide enhanced connectivity to their businesses and homes.

Following a community effort, residents on Cape Clear island off the coast of Cork are now able to access greater mobile and internet coverage.

Until recently, many had to travel to the other side of the island in order to get phone and internet signal.

“We really suffered due to a lack of mobile signal – driving to another part of the island to make a phone call was a way of life for some people,” said Mairtín Ó Méalóid, chair of Comharchumann Chléire Teoranta, the Cape Clear Cooperative.

But a new initiative was set in motion when people noticed that an amateur radio antenna worked on the island’s highest point.

A few locals seized the opportunity and contacted a Vodafone store in Skibbereen, Co Cork. They offered to help install a mast at the spot with help from the company.

Subsequently, the Cape Clear island connectivity project was born. As well as Vodafone, Vantage Towers came on board to help out as part of its Towers for Good rural connectivity programme.

The islanders themselves laid the groundwork for the structure, with the installation process requiring five large cement lorries from the mainland in Cork. They also dismantled an old wind turbine pole, which will be recycled.

The tower is going live with a Vodafone signal but will be open to all service providers. The tower was manufactured in Ireland by Carlow firm Delmec, which coordinated the complex transportation logistics.

Vantage Towers Ireland managing director Brian McHugh said the tower not only improves coverage for Cape Clear residents, but also “significantly improves mobile and data coverage” to the neighbouring island communities of Sherkin Island, Hare Island and Long Island.

“It will also have a positive impact on residences located in difficult-to-service areas dotted along the coastline between Baltimore and Crookhaven,” he added.

Cape Clear’s residents are relieved to be celebrating a connected Christmas. “I can now make a call from my house, which is something that I could never do,” said Ó Méalóid.

“There is a certain resilience which comes from island life, but something like this reduces our sense of isolation.”

For businessman Seamus Ó Drisceoil, founder and manager of Cape Clear Island Distillery, it will also help with running his company.

“We had to adjust our business as a result and accept that we would lose opportunities due to lost calls,” he said. “I now have a mobile phone signal in my house for the first time in 25 years – and I am getting a 5G signal at home and at work.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.