Break-up of Aran island ferry for scrap opposed by waterway enthusiasts

Naomh Éanna was a ‘centrepiece’ of promised Dublin dockland maritime quarter

Joyce's Ulysses publisher Sylvia Beach and writers Brendan Behan and Breandán Ó hÉithir were among the many who travelled and reminisced about travelling on the good ship Naomh Éanna that once linked Galway to the Aran islands.

Now, over a half a century after its construction in the Liffey dockyard, Waterways Ireland plans to dry dock the vessel, currently in Dublin's Grand Canal Basin, and cut it up for scrap.

Vehemently opposed to the move are the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI), Dublin city Labour councillor Dermot Lacey, and Sam Field- Corbett, managing director of Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication Company.

'Needless destruction'
Mr Field-Corbett says the ship's "needless destruction is surely industrial and cultural vandalism", while IWAI Dublin branch vice-chairman Mick Kinahan says it is a vital part of history, and a centrepiece for the long-promised maritime quarter for Grand Canal Dock.


"If we keep destroying stuff, we will have nothing left," Mr Kinahan said yesterday, appealing to Dublin City Council to intervene and halt the plan to break up the ship – believed to be due to take place very shortly.

As marine heritage restoration specialists, Mr Field-Corbett's group recovered and restored the MV Cill Airne, the tender for passenger liners that is now a floating restaurant on the Liffey, without public funds.

He says it can do the same for this ship. He also cites the tourism generated by the SS Nomadic – the Titanic's tender – which is now restored in Belfast's Titanic Quarter.

The "melting pot boat", as the Naomh Éanna was known, was built in 1956 and laid up in 1986. It has housed a windsurfing shop and sailmakers in the basin in Ringsend, but has largely been neglected due to complex ownership issues.

“Tourists, cattle, pigs, film stars and millionaires . . .” was the late Seán Lemass’s predicted passenger list for the ferry when it was run by CIÉ. In 30 years of service between Galway and the islands, the ship missed just seven scheduled sailings.

Distress call
In August 1958 – three months after it was first introduced on the Aran ferry run – it joined an RNLI lifeboat and the Naval Service corvette Macha on a search after a KLM Super Constellation airliner crashed about 65 miles off Slyne Head. The rescue became a search for bodies, as 99 lives were lost.

Mr Field-Corbett said the vessel had long been in danger of foundering, but the acquisition by Waterways Ireland – curators of canals and inland waterways – did not appear to involve a salvage and restoration plan.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times