A programme of essential conservation repairs at the medieval monastic site of Devenish Island has now been completed, at a cost of £122,000.

The essential repairs were undertaken by the Department for Communities (DfC), which cares for more than 180 historic monuments across Northern Ireland.

When the repairs were taking place, some local residents were surprised to see a helicopter transporting a utility vehicle to the island, with some questioning why it wasn’t brought across by boat.

“During mobilisation, water levels on the Lough were too low to facilitate transportation by boat of all required materials and equipment to the island, without extensive ground protection measures and additional machinery,” explained a spokesperson for the DfC, noting that the use of a helicopter for this purpose proved “more cost-effective, expedient and avoided risk of disturbance to below-ground archaeological remains, as the materials and equipment could be dropped into the exact work areas”.

“The hire of the helicopter for mobilisation and demobilisation cost £12,000, and this figure is included in the total conservation repair cost,” the DfC spokesperson added.

The repairs, which were undertaken to principally consolidate high-level stonework at specific areas of the upstanding ruins on the island, took place largely out-of-season, when visitor numbers were low.

The DfC spokesperson said: “During the course of the conservation works access to the island was not restricted but areas of the site were cordoned off in advance of and during works.

“The conservation works took place during the quieter months of the year, when visitor numbers are low, and so there was very little disruption.”

Talking about the importance of the conservation repairs, the DfC spokesperson added: “The Department has a duty to protect and conserve these monuments for future generations.

“It also has a statutory duty to provide safe public access, where practicable to do so. The medieval monastic remains on Devenish Island is one of our most significant sites and a hugely important tourist asset for the county.”