Aran islanders to lose sole ferry service to Inis Mór

Island Ferries Teo will stop ferry run from mainland to Cill Rónáin from January 17th

 Ferry services in the west of Ireland. File photograph: Frank Miller

Ferry services in the west of Ireland. File photograph: Frank Miller

 

Aran islanders face losing the sole ferry service to and from Inis Mór from mid-January, following a Supreme Court ruling on harbour charges.

Residents of the largest of the three islands said they have been told that Island Ferries Teo will stop the ferry run from the mainland to Cill Rónáin from January 17th next, and that it will be limited to summer sailings thereafter.

An emergency meeting was due to be held on the island on Tuesday night.

The company also runs ferry services to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr.

However, these services are under a State subsidy that is not applicable to the larger island.

The ferry company’s decision comes after the Supreme Court dismissed its appeal against a decision by the High Court over charges.

The company, run by the O’Brien family of Ros a Mhíl, Co Galway, had taken two sets of proceedings arising from passenger charges imposed on the island and harbour charges at Ros a Mhíl.

Social Democrat candidate for Galway West, Niall Ó Tuathail, said the 845 residents of Inis Mór would be stuck without any ferry from mid-January, as the company had informed the island co-op on Tuesday that it would stop the service in a month.

‘Pawns’

Mr Ó Tuathail said the islanders were being used as “pawns” in a battle between different Government departments over who would pay for the redevelopment of Inis Mór pier.

“The ferry company does not use the majority of new pier facilities, with the exception of the breakwater,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.

“With little other commercial activity in the harbour, the council have been trying to cover the costs from the ferry activities,” he said.

Describing the situation as an “emergency” for the islanders - who only recently won a reprieve in the battle to retain their air service - Mr Ó Tuathail said that the root cause of the issue was that the Inis Mór pier development “probably wasn’t economically viable from the start”.

“Essentially, it was a Fianna Fáil cheque that Fine Gael are refusing to cash,” he said.

“ But now that it is built and paid for, the financing of it must be restructured so that the ferry companies can continue to operate sustainably.”

Island Ferries Teo was unavailable for comment last night.