I have never visited Rockall, never will and don't want to.It is a tall rock jutting out of the Atlantic, about 30 metres wide with only one way of getting onto it, a cold and slippery step that is only for those with good sea legs and balance. There is no fresh water, no food and no natural shelter. In winter towering waves break over the islet. Sounds a great place, doesn't it?
To be geographically exact, it is about 187 miles west of the Hebrides, though 240 from the Scottish mainland, and this gives Ireland the basis of a claim, for the nearest mainland is Donegal, about 220 miles away. Donegal county council once tried to claim the rock, but as a local council has not the power to claim territory the claim had no legal force. My son, Andrew, said to me, "Is this the Donegal council that neglected the community on Tory Island?" He had read Diarmuid O'Peicin's book on the subject. Good point!
There was a time in the past when we British scoured the globe, bagging various isles,inhabited or not for the British Empire.But even at the zenith of imperial grandeur we somehow forgot to claim Rockall. Maybe because then Britain and Ireland were united, so the Irish were not making a claim.Just getting rid of British control took all their attention.
In 1955 the island came to Britain's attention. It seems that the Russians were about to claim it and put a radar station on the summit, with the intention of spying on the British missile centre on the Hebridean Island of Benbecula. We hastily claimed the isle and ran up the union flag on the summit. The rock became assimilated to Scotland and part of the jurisdiction of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Western Isles County Council, though what use the council had for it no one knows. Empire extended, just as we were getting rid of most of it.
The Irish government objected, but not vehemently. They were not interested in owning the rock, but rather in securing fishing and mineral rights in the territorial waters around it. Cash rather than territory was the motivator. The UK and Ireland have discussed the matter on a few occasions, amicably, as British and Irish negotiations usually are. The status quo has remained unchanged, and even Donegal County Council is quiet about it.
The isle is the high point on a ridge of submarine rock extending north west from Ireland. It s relatively shallow waters are far richer in fish than is the abyssal deep beyond; and here is where the problem begins