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Newport to become Ireland’s first ‘dark-sky-friendly town’

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LOOKING UP The skies above Newport town will be lit in a different way as part of an innovatie Mayo Dark Skies project. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Plans are in an advanced stage to make Newport the first ‘dark-sky-friendly town’ in Ireland, with a master lighting plan to be launched next month.
Mayo County Council, the Mayo Dark Skies project and the local community have set plans in place that will see lighting in the town changed to reduce light pollution of the night sky.
Georgia McMillan of Mayo Dark Skies told The Mayo News that thanks to funding from the Heritage Council, an Italian light-design team was engaged to determine the best way to improve the lighting in the town.
“We have a lighting master plan, which we will have ready to publish next month. We engaged with an Italian light designer to work with us on best-practice lighting for Newport. We will soon have a lighting plan for Newport to become Ireland’s first dark-sky-friendly town, showcasing the beauty of Newport at night as well as day with best-practice lighting.
“This project shows real collaboration between the community, local and national authorities, and international expertise. I’m delighted to see Mayo leading the way here,” she said.
St Patrick’s Church and the Viaduct are two of the most visible sights in the town, but they are also responsible for light pollution, and the plan looks at redesigning the lighting. Italian lighting designer Roberto Corradini, who specialises in light design for religious and heritage buildings, visited the town in 2019, and Ms McMillan said she hopes to secure funding once the plan ins launched next month.
Ms McMillan has been one of the driving forces behind the Mayo Dark Skies project, which has led Ballycroy National Park being named Ireland’s first International Dark Sky Park. The park has attracted visitors from all over the world to look at some of the most pristine skies in the world, and Newport has become a gateway town to the Dark Sky Park.
According to Ms McMillan, the Newport community has understands the benefits of preserving the dark skies in the region, which is important in ensuring the park retains its gold-tier status.
She praised the role of Mayo County Council in recognising the importance the night sky as a valuable amenity.
“Mayo has done the most work in the country on this so I am trying to make sure Mayo continues to lead the way. If we don’t do it there are consequences – we could degrade the Dark Sky Park, which is an asset for the county,” she said.
In November Mayo County Council began a rollout of ecologically sensitive and dark-sky-friendly lighting on the N59 between Westport and Bangor Erris. Improved quality, warmer-toned LED lighting will protect the sensitive environment of the region.
As part of the Citizen Science initiative, local communities have been asked to measure the effects of lighting on the skies in their area, and measurements have taken place in Achill, Inishturk and the Céide Coast.
International Dark Sky Week takes place from April 5 to 12, and Ms McMillan is inviting other communities to get involved.