Tory Islanders and the ‘Queen of Aran’

 

Sir, – I write in relation to the protests by Tory Islanders at Leinster House after the proposal to introduce a 40-year old vessel, the Queen of Aran, to serve as the island’s ferry (Ronan McGreevy, “Tory Island residents bring their campaign for a better ferry to Dublin”, News, February 14th).

The concern for its unsuitability to provide a safe and regular service to and from the mainland has resulted in a number of families threatening to leave the island.

Writing from personal experience of visits to the island, it needs to be highlighted that the journey to Tory is no casual boat trip.

The island has been inhabited for over 5,000 years but is the most remote of all Ireland’s populated islands. Its ferry must negotiate nine miles of some of the most treacherous currents in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is in many ways because of this remoteness that thousands of tourists (Irish and non-Irish alike) undertake the often arduous journey each year to experience the island’s distinct environment and beauty – its historic and mystical heritage and folklore, the world-famous school of primitive art which has been exhibited throughout Europe and the US, its renowned wildlife (it is a special protection area for birds and has been described as the corncrake capital) – as well as its traditional music and dance sessions, and the islanders’ continued use of the Irish language. The personal welcome from Patsy Dan, the King of Tory, adds to the island’s special timeless quality.

Despite its remoteness, Tory is a vital part of Ireland’s heritage and needs to be recognised as such.

If the islanders, as Irish citizens who rely on regular trips to the mainland to sustain their island existence, argue that the Queen of Aran is not fit for purpose, then they need to be listened to.

We fund other aspects of Irish tourism and culture – the arts, nature and language conservation, historical sites – so how can we allow a living, breathing part of our common history, like Tory, to be placed under threat in this way? – Yours, etc,

Dr EL DESMOND,

Mallow,

Co Cork.