Cork loses out as ferry company announces plans for new ship


Irish passenger ferries travelling from Cork to France have sailed into the mists of time after 180 years, it has been announced. The company, Irish Ferries, said its new 25,000 tonne cruise-ferry, Normandy, will sail between Rosslare, Cherbourg and Roscoff, leaving out Cork.

The vessel is replacing the two ferries which have been sailing the Ireland-France routes for many years, the St Killian II and the St Patrick II.

"The new ship cannot do the work of two ferries, so we've decided we will have to leave out Cork from now on," said a company spokesman yesterday.

The announcement was greeted with anger and disappointment in Cork, particularly by business and tourism interests.

"This is a devastating loss for the city of Cork. Not only is it an unfortunate decision, it is also illogical," said the president of Cork Chamber of Commerce, Mr Conor Doyle.

"Cork Port is the natural access point for a European service such as this. Rosslare, for example, is 240 miles from Dingle and few tourists will be prepared to make journeys of that length."

While Irish Ferries is ending its sailings, the French company, Brittany Ferries, will have one sailing from Cork on Saturday, although this is also a reduction in the service it normally offers.

Mr Con O'Connell, spokesman for Cork/Kerry Tourism, said the decision was "very disappointing".

"We need to do everything to boost tourism in this area and making it more difficult for people to get to the lovely locations in Cork and Kerry is not the right thing to do."

A spokesman for Cork Harbour said the decision was a "downgrading of Cork's status". He said there was particular symbolism in an Irish company ending its service to the city.

Hoteliers and other business owners in the area say ferry services are particularly needed to coincide with the staging of the Tour de France next year.

Irish Ferries said leaving Cork out of its Ireland-France route would allow ferries to arrive in France early in the morning, giving holiday-makers an extra day on the Continent. The company also claimed the new route would mean consistent departure and arrival times.

The company plans to sell the two old ferries, although it has yet to find a buyer.

The Normandy was built in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1982, and now operates in the Baltic Sea. It has a lounge, nightclub, cinema, play area, shopping centre and what it calls a "modern range of passenger cabin accommodation". It will have a capacity for 450 cars, compared to 300 on the older ferries.