OLIVER Cromwell deemed the island a suitable place to house Irish prisoners awaiting deportation. Later, its prisoner population soared to over 2,000 in the 1850s.
And during its modern peak two decades ago, it catered for 102 inmates, and was the site of a famous prison riot.
Now Spike Island will be transformed into a tourist attraction, provided that the money can be found to do it.
Tourism officials yesterday admitted they are "absolutely thrilled" that the island will finally become a centrepiece of efforts to turn Cork harbour into world-renowned visitor attraction.
But transforming Spike Island into Ireland's version of Alcatraz is not without difficulties. Senior council members acknowledged they have "no idea" where the estimated €1m-plus in refurbishment costs will come from.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said he was delighted by the move. He said: "I believe that it is important to unlock any tourism potential of (Spike) island to the immediate benefit of the region generally and I would like to thank all those involved."