New daily sailings to Clare Island set to begin from July

Extra ferry sailings will bring ‘massive improvement’ to residents’ lives

Roonagh Pier on Clare Island. File photograph: Conor McKeown

Roonagh Pier on Clare Island. File photograph: Conor McKeown

 

The ferry service to Clare Island, off the coast of Co Mayo, is expected to increase crossings to four times daily, the Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys has confirmed.

The tender process for the subsidised service is nearing completion, and the Minister said she was pleased to confirm that a preferred bidder has been identified. Pending a 14-day cooling-off period, the company is expected to begin providing an improved service with at least four daily sailings from July 1st.

“While of course respecting the integrity of the tender process, I can confirm that my expectation is that the island community’s requirement for a minimum of four contracted daily sailings on a year-round basis will be met,” Minister Humphreys said.

The Fine Gael Minister said she was confident the new service, provided the process is completed, will “greatly benefit the island community”. There are around 150 people living on the island, with secondary school students having to travel to the mainland to receive their education at a boarding school on the mainland.

“I am glad that we will be in a position to ensure Clare Island has the kind of ferry service that will serve the needs of local residents and tourists,” she said.

Pier refurbishment

A fortnight ago, a letter with over 400 signatories was sent to the Minister outlining the urgent requirement for a more frequent ferry service to the island. The tender originally advertised by the department was for the five-year provision of twice-daily ferry services.

Island resident and member of the development committee Ian McCabe said the commitment to provide additional sailings is “very welcome”.

“It really means a massive improvement in the quality of life for the people here… On the doorstep is Westport, which is possibly the best place in Ireland, but we cannot tap into any resources there because we only had two sailings per day,” he said.

The additional daily crossings will provide members of the community with options to commute to work and potentially secondary school, Mr McCabe said, adding that the sail itself takes only 15 minutes.

“Hopefully now with four crossings we can suit everybody,” he said.

The deteriorating condition of Roonagh Pier in Louisburgh has been an issue for ferry landings during winter, but Mr McCabe welcomed the Minister’s recent announcement of €139,000 in funding to support its refurbishment.

Ms Humphreys held a meeting with a delegation from Clare Island this week, during which she reiterated her support for the future development of the island. She said the Government’s new policy for rural development commits to investing in critical infrastructure throughout rural Ireland, including offshore islands.

She said the focus on remote working in recent times, along with the recent installation of broadband connection points, provides a “unique opportunity for people to live and work on our offshore islands”.