Aran islanders relieved at resumption of ferry services

Suspension of services would ‘never have happened if we had been listened to’

Island Ferries Teo spokesman, Jason O’Sullivan, said that trips would resume from Kilronan on Inis Mór on Friday evening at 5pm until January 4th as a gesture of goodwill. Photograph: Getty

Island Ferries Teo spokesman, Jason O’Sullivan, said that trips would resume from Kilronan on Inis Mór on Friday evening at 5pm until January 4th as a gesture of goodwill. Photograph: Getty

 

Aran islanders have expressed relief at the temporary resumption of passenger ferry services between Inis Mór and Connemara.

“You can’t close down people’s only route to the mainland, and this would never have happened if we had been listened to by State bodies,” Inis Mór resident Dara Molloy said.

The decision by Island Ferries Teo to resume sailings between Cill Rónáin and Ros an Mhíl on Friday evening after a suspension of almost three days was taken after talks in Galway chaired by Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Seán Kyne.

The suspension caused particular hardship to a population of almost 900, even though Aer Arann increased its flights to facilitate people with urgent medical appointments.

The three-way negotiations involving Mr Kyne’s department, Galway County Council interim chief executive Kevin Kelly and the ferry company aimed to resolve an impasse over passenger levies sought by the local authority.

Galway County Council passed a bylaw in 2011 imposing levies to pay for the redeveloped harbour at Inis Mór, in addition to harbour dues.

The ferry company took two legal actions over this, losing a Supreme Court appeal, and it has since proposed a compromise whereby it would collect half the sum sought by the local authority but would not levy residents.

Mr Kyne said the talks on Friday morning were “constructive”, and had identified a number of areas requiring “further consideration and discussion”.

Island Ferries Teo spokesman, solicitor Jason O’Sullivan, said that resumed sailings would continue until January 4th as a gesture of goodwill, and would be subject to review.

The ferry company had said earlier this week it would be forced to abandon the winter service altogether over the levy issue until March 17th.

Mr O’Sullivan said the decision to resume sailings was not conditional, and discussions would resume on December 9th in Galway.

Mr Kyne said that the disruption to the service had been “very regrettable”, but he believed that the “issues can, with further talks, be resolved in the longer term”.

“We will continue to work towards that,”Mr Kyne said.

The Inis Mór co-op had warned four years ago of the need to tie all three islands into a State-guaranteed winter contract which the largest island currently lacks.

The two smaller islands, which have winter passenger ferry contracts, have not been affected by the current row.

Mr Molloy, a Celtic priest and monk, said that providing a winter contract was the only long-term solution.

However, he said islanders must have a voice in this – such as in provision of a new air contract for all three islands, which has still not been finalised.

The current contract with Aer Arann expires on December 31st.