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Commissioners of Irish Lights

Information on Irish Lights

The Commissioners of Irish Lights are the General Lighthouse Authority for the whole of Ireland, both the republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. They are one of three lighting authorities with the British Isles and Ireland. The other two being Trinity House,  covering England, Wales and the Channel Isles, and the Northern Lighthouse Board, covering Scotland and the Isle of Man.

They are responsible for lighthouses, buoys, and the other various navigation, warning and direction finding items associated with the sea, and marking of wrecks and the like.

The constitution of the board dates from another organisation in 1786, while the task they undertake mostly dates from 1810, but they were not known as the Commissioners of Irish Lights until 1867. To see the full history of lighthouses in Ireland and how the Commissioners for Irish Lights came about, see our article History of Lighthouses in Ireland.

Today the majority of their income, like the other two, comes from a share of the General Lighthouse Fund, which is under the stewardship of the Department for Transport, in London. Monies comes into this fund from  'Light Dues' levied on commercial vessels calling at ports in the British Isles and Republic of Ireland, based on the net registered tonnage of the vessel, see the Trinity House article for a fuller explanation of this. This is supplemented by an annual contribution from the Irish Government towards the cost of the service provided by the Commissioners in the Republic of Ireland.

The Commissioners are responsible for the superintendence and management of the Aids to Navigation around the coast of all of Ireland, its adjacent seas and islands. This includes:-

  • Provision and maintenance of lighthouses and aids to marine navigation.

  • Sanctioning the establishment, alteration, or discontinuation of local aids to marine navigation in ports, harbours and on coastlines which are within the jurisdiction of a local lighthouse authority.

  • The periodic inspection of local Aids to Navigation to ensure they comply with International standards and the statutory sanction granted.

  • Marking or removing wrecks which are a danger to navigation, where no harbour or conservancy authority has the power to do so.

Like the other two lighting authorities they also offer a range of commercial services using up spare capacity that they have. Amongst the assets they have is a ship:-

The Irish Lights Vessel Granuaile III -  new 2000. A multi-functional vessel which can operate in difficult sea conditions, 79.7m long, Speed 13.1 Knots, and many facilities including  Bollard Pull 50 tonnes, Chain capstans 2 x 15 tonnes, Crane 20 tonnes SWL with 20m outreach, and can serve as a helicopter platform for servicing offshore lighthouses. The vesselís primary function is to place and service buoys.

There had been two previous ships called the Granuaile, the one it replaced having been in service for 30 years.

The ship is also available to assist State agencies with search and rescue, emergency towing, oil pollution, surveying, and offshore data collection.

   Photo by Patsy Wooters 

The Commissionersí administrative, technical, and financial support services, engineering workshops, stores, and remote control and monitoring centre for lighthouses are at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, near Dublin. This is also the base for lighthouse and buoy maintenance operations.

Control and staffing

The Commissioners Board currently comprises of the Lord Mayor of Dublin (ex officio), three Councillors elected by Dublin City Council, and twelve co-opted members elected by the Board for unlimited terms as vacancies occur. The Commissioners do not receive any remuneration for their services.

Staffing levels are 201 full time administrative and technical staff, crafts people, general operatives, and shipís officers and crew, and 75 part time lighthouse Attendants. Additional workers are employed on a casual basis as required from time to time.

The Possible Future

On 2 December 1999 the Irish and UK Governments signed orders establishing the six Implementation Bodies agreed in the Belfast Agreement. One of these is the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission. 11 years on and Primary legislation is still required in both Westminster and Dublin to enable the functions of the Commissioners of Irish Lights to be incorporated into the new body. At this time and until they decide to do this or change their minds, the Commissioners of Irish Lights continue to operate under existing Irish and UK law. Foyle and Carlingford are two river areas around inland river systems, and are heavily into tourism and conservation, so its difficult to see why this would benefit from being connected up with the role of lighting and safeguarding travellers in the oceans around Ireland.

Further information

History of Lighthouses in Ireland this also explains the history of the Commissioners of Irish Lights.

Lighthouse map of Ireland     

Featured list of lighthouses - Ireland  

Commissioners of Irish Lights website



By: Keith Park   Section: Lighthouses section Key:
Page Ref: Com_Irish_Lights Topic: Lighthouses Last Updated: 06/2010

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