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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 20 December, 2014

Scramble to save heritage ship after Minister grants stay-of-execution

The Naomh Éanna — a 1950s CIÉ ferry — was due to be scrapped within days. It’s hoped the vessel can be restored and turned into a tourist attraction.

Image: Naomh Éanna Trust

CAMPAIGNERS BIDDING to save a historical CIÉ ferry which had been set for destruction are appealing for more time to put together plans to save it, after Arts & Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan announced a four week postponement of its scrapping. It’s hoped 1950s vessel can be turned into a tourist attraction.

Built in the Liffey dockyards in the 1950s, the Naomh Éanna has been moored at Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock since 1989. Various businesses have operated out of the ship in the last 25 years — however, it was announced last year that the former ferry would have to be scrapped, after safety concerns were raised in a hull inspection.

The Naomh Éanna Trust — a campaign group established in 2005 aimed at saving the vessel — had been calling for a four month pause in the plan to destroy it so that a refocused effort could be made to save the ship. A scheme spearheaded by businessman Sam Field Corbett, whose company has a proven record in the restoration of vintage vessels, was backed by the group and by local politicians.

However, Minister Deenihan announced last week that a final decision had been made to have the ship destroyed — and last Wednesday it was moved a short distance to the NAMA-controlled ‘Graving Docks’.

Over the last week there’s been little sign of any significant scrapping work at the site — and yesterday the Minister bowed to pressure in the Seanad and agreed to a four-week reprieve for the Naomh Éanna.

“As one who is interested in heritage and preservation, I will extend the time to 31 March,” Deenihan said.

“If any one has a concrete and realistic proposal and can show where he or she can get the money – which would be about €6 million – we can look at it.

“I am prepared do extend it to 31 March to see whether any concrete business plan emerges, including the source of funding, to restore the vessel and to keep it.”

The postponement of the ship’s scrapping was initially requested so that Field Corbett’s firm — the Irish Ship & Barge Fabrication Company — could put together a business plan to attract private investment.

His plan proposed that the restoration of the vessel could form the seed of a maritime quarter for the city. The Cill Áirne, which his company also restored, is now run as a successful restaurant and bar and sits on the north bank of the Liffey, by the IFSC.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie in the wake of the Minister’s announcement yesterday, Field Corbett said the four-week time period was to be welcomed but that it was “nothing close” to what’s needed to put together a proper plan.

“We need to get permission to place the ship on the quayside somewhere before we can go and talk to investors,” Field Corbett said. He also questioned the rationale behind the Minister’s estimated sum of €6 million, and said the project could be carried out for less.

“Sixteen weeks was already tight — these things take a fair bit of time to organise, but I don’t know why they can’t just give us the sixteen weeks. After all, this won’t cost the state a cent of funding if the plan can be put together.”

Read: Groups outraged at exclusion from ‘relevant stakeholders’ meeting on ship destruction

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