Commissioners of Irish Lights

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Commissioners of Irish Lights
Coimisinéirí Soilse na hÉireann
Commissioners of Irish Lights logo.png
MottoIn Salutem Omnium (Latin; "For the Safety of All")
TypeStatutory corporation
HeadquartersDún Laoghaire, Ireland
ServicesNavigational aids
Key people
David Delamer, Chairperson
Yvonne Shields, Chief executive

The Commissioners of Irish Lights (Irish: Coimisinéirí Soilse na hÉireann), often shortened to Irish Lights or CIL, is the body that serves as the general lighthouse authority for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and their adjacent seas and islands. As the lighthouse authority for the island of Ireland it oversees the coastal lights and navigation marks provided by the local lighthouse authorities, the county councils and port authorities.

It is funded by light dues paid by ships calling at ports in the Republic of Ireland, pooled with dues raised similarly in the United Kingdom. This recognises that a large volume of shipping, typically transatlantic, relies on the lights provided by Irish Lights.[citation needed]


Early lights[edit]

Signal fires to guide shipping have long existed. Hook Head has the oldest nearly continuous light in Ireland, originally a signal fire or beacon tended by the monk Dubhán in the fifth century.[1] Monks continued to maintain the light until the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1641.

King Charles II re-established the lighthouse in 1667. He granted a patent for the erection of six lighthouses to Robert Reading, some replacing older lighthouses,[2] at Hook Head, Baily Lighthouse at Howth Head, Howth sand-bar, Old Head of Kinsale, Barry Oge's castle (now Charlesfort, near Kinsale), and the Isle of Magee.

In 1704 Queen Anne transferred the lighthouses around the Irish coast to the Revenue Commissioners.

The Commissioners of Irish Lights were established under an Act of the Parliament of Ireland passed in 1786 and entitled An Act for Promoting the Trade of Dublin, by rendering its Port and Harbour more commodious (26 Geo. III, c. xix). Lighthouses were not included until an 1810 Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. These Acts, modified by the Irish Lights Commissioners (Adaptation) Order, 1935,[3] remain the legislative basis for the CIL.[4]

Irish Lights has moved its headquarters from Dublin to a purpose-built new building in Harbour Road, Dún Laoghaire.


The services provided by Irish Lights are financed from the General Lighthouse Fund. The income of the General Lighthouse Fund is mainly derived from light dues charged on commercial shipping at ports in Ireland and the United Kingdom, (i.e. user pays) supplemented by an annual contribution from the Irish Government towards the cost of the service provided by the commissioners in Ireland.[5]

The General Lighthouse Fund is administered by the UK Department for Transport. It also finances:

The accounts of the Commissioners of Irish Lights are consolidated with those of Trinity House Lighthouse Service and the Northern Lighthouse Board to form part of the General Lighthouse Fund annual accounts which are published in London by HMSO.


Granuaile III[edit]

The ILV Granuaile in 2010

The commissioners currently have only one light tender[6] in service named ILV Granuaile. The hull was built at Galaţi shipyard, Romania, in 2000 and fitted out at Damen Shipyards in the Netherlands.[7] She is registered in Dublin and has a 2,625 gross tonnage (GT), has a length overall of 79.6 m and a beam of 15.99 m. She is the third vessel named Granuaile to have served the Commissioners. Granuaile II was in service between 1970 and 2000, and she was preceded by the first Granuaile from 1948 to 1970. Because of the automation of lighthouses, and the extensive use of helicopters by the Commissioners, CIL now need only one tender in service. The ship has diesel-electric propulsion and is extremely manoeuvrable, and is therefore ideal for her role in maintaining the automatic navigation buoys in Irish waters. In 2003 she was involved in the recovery of the fishing boat Pisces, which sank off Fethard, County Wexford, in July 2002.

Other vessels[edit]

  • Princess Alexandra (1863–1904)
  • Tearaght (1892–1928) – see Kingstown Lifeboat Disaster
  • Moya (1893–1905)
  • Ierne (1898–1954)
  • Alexandra (1904–1955)
  • Deirdre (1919–1927)
  • Nabro (1926–1949)
  • Isolda (1928–1940) (Sunk off the Saltee Islands County Wexford by German aircraft)
  • Discovery II (1947–1948)
  • Valonia (1947–1962)
  • Granuaile (1948–1970)
  • Blaskbeg (1953–1955)
  • Isolda (1953–1976)
  • Ierne II (1955–1971)
  • Atlanta (1959–1988)
  • Granuaile II (1970–2000)
  • Gray Seal (1988–1994)


Flag used in Northern Ireland

The Commissioners of Irish Lights is a cross-border body, with its headquarters in Dublin. The current flag of the Irish Lights features lightships and lighthouses between the arms of the St. Patrick's Cross.[8] The St. George's Cross was used until 1970.[9] CIL vessels in Northern Ireland fly the Blue Ensign defaced with the Commissioner's badge and those in the Republic fly the Irish tricolour.[8]


The CIL operate and maintain the majority of the aids to navigation around the Irish coastline. This includes 66 lighthouses, 20 beacons and over 100 buoys. It also operates more than 100 automatic identification system transmitters, and 24 radar beacons.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History". Hook Head. Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  2. ^ Leach, Nicholas (2005). The Lifeboat Service in Ireland. Tempus Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 0-7524-3509-4.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Constitution". About CIL. Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Finance". Information on Irish Lights. Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  6. ^ "Ships in the Irish Lighthouse Service". Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  7. ^ "ILV Granuaile" (PDF). Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b Grieve, Martin; Miles Li; Jarig Bakker; Rob Raeside (19 July 2008). "Commissioner of Irish Lights". Flags of the World. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  9. ^ Dillon, Jim (1995). "The Evolution of Maritime Uniform". Beam. Commissioners of Irish Lights. 24. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2011. In the Lighthouse Service the cap badge originally was a St George's Cross surrounded by a wreath of laurel leaves but from 1970 the St Patrick's Cross has been used.
  10. ^ "Aids to Navigation". Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 4 August 2020.

External links[edit]