Inis Mór to be stripped of ferry service until March 2017
Cutbacks to take effect for largest Aran island due to impasse over levies sought by council
Island Ferries says it has no problem with harbour dues, but the levy makes its winter service unsustainable. Photograph: The Irish Times
Winter ferry services to the Aran island of Inis Mór may be cut from Thursday due to an impasse over a passenger levy sought by Galway County Council.
Island Ferries has notified islanders that the last regular winter sailing between Ros-a-Mhíl and Inis Mór will take place Wednesday evening, unless the local authority accepts a compromise proposal tendered by the company.
The company said it regretted such “drastic action” and that summer services would resume in March. A meeting is scheduled with the local authority this morning.
Last December, the ferry company lost a Supreme Court appeal over a 2011 bylaw stipulating that passenger levies must be collected to pay for the harbour development at Inis Mór. It says it has no problem with harbour dues, but the levy makes its winter service unsustainable.
Inis Mór co-op manager Cathy Ní Ghoill said: ”This uncertainty will affect people with hospital appointments and other needs. And we can’t keep living with this every winter.”
The contract for the air service to all three Aran islands is due to expire on December 31st. The department said the tender assessment for a new air service is “ongoing”.
Ms Ní Ghoill said: “This saga has been going on for four years. For most islands around Ireland there is a subsidy from the Government guaranteeing a ferry service but for Inis Mór for the past four years there has been no guaranteed subsidy from the Government for a service and we’re very worried about that.
“We’ve told the Department of the Gaeltacht that there has to be a guaranteed service. When a private operator can come and go as they pleases then there’s nothing to guarantee the service.
“We were very aware of this and concerned that a private operator could say at any stage: ‘It’s quiet for November-December I’m not going to be running a ferry service in and out’. That prediction has come to pass.”
She told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland there was an air service “but the plane, which is more expensive, can carry only eight passengers. So for a family going with children Christmas shopping, you couldn’t afford to bring three or four children. It could cost maybe €130 or €140 for a family.”