forgotten islands?

What will become of the Aran Islands now that their airplane service is gone?

A new tender for the commuter service to the islands has been given to a Galway helicopter firm at the expense of Aer Arann Islands, the holder of the tender for the last 45 years.

9201086151_df04f12ee3_o Inis Meáin, as seen from an Aer Arann flight calflier001 calflier001

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced that the 45-year tenure of Aer Arann Islands as the air service provider between the offshore Galway Aran Islands and the mainland is to end.

The tender for the service has been granted to Galway-based helicopter company Executive Helicopters, with a contract to be signed following a cooling-off period which will end on 9 September.

Under the new contract, which was organised by the Office of Government Procurement daily return flights by helicopter will be provided between the islands and Galway Airport for the period from 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2019.

Gaeltacht minister Joe McHugh said he was “pleased” to be making the announcement.

The agreement between my department and Executive Helicopters Limited ensures that the air service to the Aran Islands will continue over the next four years.

joe Joe McHugh

Others are less than enthused however, not least the islanders themselves.

Inis Meáin resident Ruairí de Blacam told that he “would imagine the residents of Inis Oírr and Inis Mór in particular would be worried, as are we” about the development.

It’s a bit worrying to be stranded, particularly for a business here. They rely on the air service for its reliability, in a place where boats often simply can’t approach in winter because of the severity of storms.
If a business-owner here wants to send a Fedex for example or something that simply can’t wait, that service is essential, while cargo can only be brought in and out by air.

De Blacam remains skeptical that the helicopters of the company in question are suitable to handle the severe weather conditions around the island.

I don’t believe that they currently have the kind of helicopters that can handle the weather we get out here, which is nothing personal, good luck to them for landing the tender. The kind of helicopters that can are simply too expensive.
I don’t think we’re even talking about a danger here because a trained pilot isn’t going to look at ferocious weather and then decide to go up in the air risking his own life.

exec Executive Helicopters Executive Helicopters

When contacted by an Executive Helicopters spokesman said that the company was prevented from making a statement until after the actual contract is signed.

Earlier, owner of Aer Arann Islands Pádraig Ó Céidigh told the Irish Times that the news was the “single biggest blow” dealt to the islands in recent history.

The decision has received harsh criticism from Sinn Féin’s Gaeltacht spokesman Trevor Ó Clochartaigh also, who says the government need to clarify how the contract was awarded to Executive Helicopters, adding that he believes the contract was decided via a paper exercise, a decision that “beggars belief”.

“The people of the Aran Islands are hugely concerned by this decision,” he said.

There are forty direct jobs at stake here and it would seem incredible that 45 years of continued, high quality service given by Aer Árainn might be jettisoned at this point without ensuring that a more superior and improved service would be replacing it and that certainly is not clear at this stage.

“To be honest I don’t think even the government expect this to work,” says de Blacam.

It’s being done to save money but it won’t and they know it, but political expediency prevents them from acknowledging as much.
Give it two years and the whole thing will probably be declared a failure.

Read: Joy for locals as second teacher found for school on Aran Island

Read: Renua spent nearly €30k trying (and failing) to get this man elected

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