Arts and heritage department rejects appeal to save former Aran island ferry

“Decision not taken lightly”, it says

The Naomh Éanna after it was towed into a dry dock in the Grand Canal Basin for dismantling. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Naomh Éanna after it was towed into a dry dock in the Grand Canal Basin for dismantling. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 01:46

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has rejected appeals to save the former Aran island ferry Naomh Éanna, which is due to be broken up by Waterways Ireland.

The department said that “the decision has not been taken lightly”, but is “necessary because of the continuing serious risk posed by the vessel”, which has been in Dublin’s Grand Canal Basin for almost 30 years.

The ship, built in Dublin’s Liffey Dockyard in 1956, served the Galway to Aran island sea route for 30 years, before being acquired from State owner CIÉ by the Irish Nautical Trust. It was laid up in 1986.

Sam Field Corbett, managing director of the Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication Company, has proposed a refurbishment plan for the vessel, which he said could be turned into a hostel, and says its “needless destruction is surely industrial and cultural vandalism”.

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) and An Taisce’s Galway branch also support its retention, along with Cllr Dermot Lacey of the Labour Party.

Mr Field Corbett and the IWAI have also expressed concern about what they believe to be the illicit removal of valuable materials from the ship, including clocks and portholes, in the lead-up to its destruction.

Waterways Ireland said it was “not aware” the ship has been vandalised.

The department confirmed it met officials from Waterways Ireland this week, along with “other relevant bodies”.

“Taking account of the serious health and safety risks, this meeting concluded that the proper course of action to be taken now is to proceed with the disposal of the vessel,” it said. The department cited the “disruption and expense” involved if the vessel were to sink in the Grand Canal dock, and the “very considerable expense” in making it “safe and insurable”.

As marine heritage restoration specialists, Mr Field Corbett’s group recovered and restored the MV Cill Airne, a tender for passenger liners which is now a floating restaurant on the river Liffey, without any public funds.

He says it can do the same for the Naomh Éanna.