Aran islanders urge Minister to guarantee ferry service

Island Ferries Ltd to cease service between Ros-a-Mhíl and Inis Mór on January 17th

Island Ferries objects to collecting the passenger dues, levied by Galway County Council to pay for operational costs of the €50 million harbour extension on Inis Mór. Photograph: The Irish Times

Island Ferries objects to collecting the passenger dues, levied by Galway County Council to pay for operational costs of the €50 million harbour extension on Inis Mór. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Aran islanders have called on Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Joe McHugh to ensure a guaranteed year-round ferry service to Inis Mór.

The Government must also take a long-term look at access to the islands, given the uncertainty over the ferry to Inis Mór from January 17th and the future of the air service for all three islands, politicians of all parties were told at a briefing in Galway on Friday.

“We have cross-party support from all local TDs, Senators and councillors but this is not reflected in the Government’s approach which seems to want to make island living impossible,” said Cathy Ní Ghoill of Comharchumann Forbartha Árann.

The co-op was informed by Island Ferries Ltd earlier this week that the service between Ros-a-Mhíl and Inis Mór would stop on January 17th, and would not resume untill March, following a Supreme Court ruling on passenger and harbour dues.

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 visitors arriving on the island and harbour charges at Ros a Mhíl – losing its appeal on one and winning on the second.

New harbours

It objects to collecting the passenger dues, levied by Galway County Council to pay for operation costs of the €50 million harbour extension on Inis Mór.

Galway County Council has confirmed it is still owed almost €8 million from the Department of the Gaeltacht for new harbours at Inis Mór and Inis Meáin.

Mr McHugh had urged “stakeholders” to find a solution and said he believed the difficulty arose from “bylaws” imposed by the county council relating to passenger dues.

However, in calling on the council to review the bylaws on passenger dues, the island co-op said that this situation would not be resolved before January 17th, and it was incumbent on Mr McHugh to make contingency arrangements.

Social Democrat Galway West candidate Niall Ó Tuathail who was at the briefing said that the harbour development at Inis Mór had been “too expensive in the first place”, costing the equivalent of €60,000 for every resident and providing some infrastructure that was unnecessary.

He also said that the island transport situation had to be secured in the long term. And this could be done by ensuring the Government and the co-op owned the ferry and tendered out the service to provide competition and end a monopoly situation.