Spike Island

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Spike Island
* Cork Harbour
* Cork, Ireland (Eire) * http://www.spikeislandcork.ie/ *

The jail encampment site known as Spike Island is a tourist spot in southern Ireland located in historic Cork Harbour. It was a key occupation site for military activity during the 18th and 19th century. Cork Harbour, which is a natural harbour, second largest in the world, that has a long history of activities involving military, exploration, settlement, and industry. Originally home to a monastery, it was absorbed as a fortress and converted to a prison island. It consists of over 103 acres of land within its shores. It is now controlled by the Cork City Council and a major location for tourism and historical attractions. The fort found within is in the shape of a star and is now a heritage tourist center. Originally used by smugglers, it was later taken over by the religious. First settled by pilgrims creating a monastic settlement in the 7th century C.E. (common era) (and still used for smuggling during its monastic times). Because of its strategic location, it became a site of interest during the French intervention following the Glorious Revolution. The Island was sold to the British Government in 1779 upon which was built Fort Westmoreland, designed by the infamous Charles Vallancey. After military applications and use, it became a prison and convict depot housing prisoners of war, convicts, and thugs prior to penal transportation. It was used so much as a jail it was nicknamed “Ireland’s Alcatraz”. Even through the prison period, it was used also as a garrison through the Irish War of Independence and held captive IRA prisoners there. Once Ireland gained its Independence, during the Anglo-Irish Treaty, it remained as one of the Treaty Ports being handed over to Ireland in 1938. The fort at this time was then re-named to Fort Mitchel after the infamous nationalist activist and political journalist John Mitchel who was imprisoned here). The island continued to be used as a prison and military base on into the 20th century. It was then replaced as a youth correctional facility, but after the 1985 riots took place and the garda, civilians, and prison officers were held captive the prison went through much evolution and changes, being closed in 2004. The island during its military times had a small town consisting of a school, church, and ferry launch service to Cobh. There was some agriculture also taking place on the site where allowed as the soil was an excellent place to farm. There are no longer inhabitants on the island, most moving to Cobh through time. In 2006 a new prison was being planned to be built on the island but an alternative site was chosen in 2007 as more viable. Thereby a local task group took to project to create a historical tourist site on the island. This was successful and in 2009 the ownership of the island was transferred for free to the Cork County Council to enable the tourist attraction ideas. Tour guides are now licenses to give guided tours of the island. Tours operate during summer months only.

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