Investment sought in port resort


One of Ireland's natural harbours is not being utilised to its full potential due to a lack of investment, a local group has claimed.

Rathmullan, on the western shore of Lough Swilly in Co Donegal, has the second-deepest berth in Ireland and was once a very busy port. However, the pier is now largely redundant and the Rathmullan Business Association fears that it will be allowed to deteriorate further.

During the past year, a dispute arose between the business association and Donegal County Council over plans to develop the resort, which is one of the most popular in the county.

The association maintains that an old potato store near the pier should have been redeveloped into units to accommodate maritime-related business, but the county council chose instead to provide new car-parking spaces and demolished the building despite some legal queries about its ownership.

"The tourist season here has got shorter and shorter and really is now only July and August," explained the RBA chairman, Willie Deeney. "Developing the old store could have provided the town with real, sustainable jobs. People expressed an interest in taking units with ideas for boat repairs and leisure craft, a water sports business and also a small restaurant and shops, as well as an indoor play area. These facilities are sadly lacking and are exactly what tourists and day-trippers are looking for."

Until a few years ago, Rathmullan was a regular port of call for Irish naval ships, while it was not uncommon to see upwards of a dozen trawlers moored off the pier at any one time.

"The navy boats don't land now, as they get scratched, and you hardly ever see any fishing boats, as there is no fendering at the pier," Mr Deeney explained.

There is also support within the fishing community for new facilities at Rathmullan, which, at certain times of the year, provides easier access to the fishing grounds off the Donegal coast than does Killybegs.

"If they could use Rathmullan, it would save them up to eight hours at sea in each direction, and that is a lot of time and diesel," Mr Deeney said.

The business association fears that the port will continue to be allowed to run down and that all they will be left with will be a few pleasure craft and the seasonal car ferry service across Lough Swilly to Buncrana.