Tory Island residents bring their campaign for a better ferry to Dublin

Colourful protesters tell politicians: ‘We’re going to need a better boat’

Hundreds of Tory Island residents have protested outside Leinster House against the government's decision to award a contract for the Queen of Aran ferry, which is over forty years old, to service the Donegal island. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The people of Tory Island brought their campaign for a better boat to Leinster House and with it a reminder of a nursery rhyme many Irish people learned in school.

More than 100 people from Tory Island, two-thirds of its population, descended on Leinster House to protest at plans to replace its existing ferry service with the 42-year-old ferry, the MV Queen of Aran.

In unison they sang Báidín Fheilimí about Phelim’s little boat which sailed between Gola Island, Tory Island and the mainland. Generations of Irish schoolchildren learned the song.

The Queen of Aran is due to replace the existing service from April 1st, but residents claim it is too slow and unsuitable for rough seas.

Residents of the most remote inhabited island in Ireland - it is 15 kilometres off the coast of Co Donegal - endured a two-hour ferry crossing in difficult conditions to the mainland and then a five-hour bus ride to Dublin which was delayed because of traffic.

Led by the “King of Tory Island”, Patsy Dan Rodgers, they brought a colourful and noisy spectacle to Leinster House.

Their banners include one which paraphrased the famous line from the film Jaws: “We’re going to need a better boat”.

Patsy Dan and some locals played a few raucous tunes at the gates of Leinster House. He then proceeded to address the crowd as Gaeilge.

“We are not getting the proper service for Aran. Hopefully, we will leave today with better news. We are entitled to better rights and a better ferry,” he said.

Many children from the island’s two schools and pre-schools were present for the day. One held aloft a banner that stated. “I want to grow up on my island like my father, his father and all our ancestors”.

Tory Island Co-op manager Marjorie Uí Cearbhaill said that while Tory Island had a king, it would never accept a queen and the Queen of Aran will not be allowed to berth on the island if the service goes ahead from April 1st.

She said it was the unanimous view of all Tory islanders that the Queen of Aran service should not go ahead.

“The Tory Island community deserve better than this. The island community has earned better than this.”

She warned that a mass exodus of families which saw 50 people leave from the island in the 1980s could happen again.

“Families are contemplating leaving again due to the poor ferry service offered upon us. We will not accept this five year contract and we will not be leaving Tory Island,” she said to loud cheers from the 200 or so people assembled outside Leinster House.

A statement from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said it had run an open tender competition, in accordance with public procurement rules, and had awarded the service to the company Réalt na Maidne using the vessel MV Queen of Aran.

It said Minister of State for the Islands Joe McHugh and officials from the department had met representatives from Comharchumann Oileán Thoraí last week in Donegal following a previous public meeting on the island.

The statement added: “The department indicated that it would be open to looking at a range of options for future ferry services to the island including, the possibility of purchasing a new vessel, building a bespoke vessel, subsidising the provision of a separate fast ferry service for the island to supplement both the new service scheduled to commence on April 1st , 2018, and the island’s subsidised weekly winter air service.

“The department has also committed to the development of the pier of Machaire Rabhartaigh.”