Northern Ireland

Council to incinerate whales washed up in Donegal

Scientists examine the remains of the whales on Rutland Island
Image caption Scientists examine the remains of the whales on Rutland Island

Donegal County Council is to seek a licence to incinerate the bodies of 33 pilot whales washed up on a beach.

The council had hoped to bury the whales on Rutland Island. However local people objected claiming potential health risks.

The council has now applied for a licence to incinerate the bodies in County Cavan.

Ferries will remove the remains and trucks will transport them to the facility.

Environmentalists are still trying to establish how the pod of pilot whales was beached on Rutland Island near Burtonport 10 days ago.

It's thought they were the same group spotted in the Outer Hebrides at the end of October.

The council had obtained a licence which allowed the whales to be buried on the beach, but it decided to consult with residents before taking any further action.

Although Rutland Island is uninhabited during the winter, there are a number of holiday homes on the island.

Belfast-based journalist Iain Webster, who owns a fisherman's cottage on the island, said he understood people's concerns "as the area is so pristine and unpolluted".

"Personally, I feel the whales are organic and will go back to nature, so I wouldn't have a big problem with it, as long as the site is carefully chosen so as not to contaminate the natural water springs on the island," he said.

"However, I can see how some people feel they should be taken away to a disposal site."

It's understood the operation to remove the carcasses could take place on Thursday.

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