Removal of Aran service would risk lives
The removal of the Aran Islands air service would put lives at risk and totally change the ability to provide medical care on the island, according to an Inis Mór GP.
Residents of the three islands have become increasingly worried about the future of the air route which the Government has indicated could be withdrawn.
The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht currently provides a subsidy of €1.8 million to Aer Arann Islands, the company that operates the 42-year-old service.
Today Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley said the Government has not yet made a decision on the future of the service.
Dr Marion Broderick, who lives on Inis Mór, said the “air service is absolutely essential for every aspect of living on the island but particularly for health.” Last year 60 people were taken off the island in medical emergencies, but flights are also used extensively by people to attend outpatient appointments, she said.
Islanders believe the Government has already decided to withdraw the subsidy, saying they received a tip-off from a Department official.
Dr Broderick said when residents initially questioned Government Ministers they expected to hear that no such action was planned but “they are not telling us anything that reassures us.”
On Thursday the Inis Mór co-op convened a meeting to discuss how to proceed with a campaign to maintain the service.
“What we’re trying to get through to them is it isn’t making economic sense” to close the route, co-op manager Cathy Ní Ghoill said. She argued the resultant cost to the State in unemployment benefit for some of the 40 airline staff as well as the loss in revenue would cancel out any savings.
Speaking over the phone yesterday Mr McGinley said the air service carries 35,000 to 40,000 passengers each year to the three islands while the ferry service, which receives a subsidy of €1.6 million, carries 250,000.
“We have to get the best value for money,” he said, adding “the last thing I want to do is withdraw air services but we all have to make contributions”.
Galway County Councillor Seán Ó Tuairisg said cutting the service would have negative implications for education and business on the islands.
At the moment specialist teachers use the air service to travel to the two small schools on Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin “If this service was withdrawn schools would be in jeopardy,” he said.
“Really what would happen is parents would have to move to the mainland,” he added, saying this would eventually render the population of the two smaller islands “unsustainable”.