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Aran Islands helicopter contract cancelled after backlash from locals

The contract had caused deep concern among residents of the three islands.

Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands.
Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE MUCH-CRITICISED decision to award the Aran Islands’ air service contract to a helicopter company has been overturned.

Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Joe McHugh announced this evening that he has cancelled the four-year tender, which was awarded to Galway-based helicopter company Executive Helicopters Limited in August.

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said it intends to “advise the European Commission of the position as soon as possible and to commence a fresh tender process for the air service”.

It added that Aer Arann, the existing service provider, will be consulted about providing “an interim service with a view to enabling the re-tender to take place, while ensuring that there is no disruption in service”.

In something of a climbdown earlier this month, the department announced that it was extending its contract with the airline until February 2016.

The move was necessary, it said, in order to obtain “clarification on the availability of Galway Airport” for the duration of the contract with its preferred tender.

Objections

The decision to withdraw funding for daily airplane flights to the three islands had been met with significant opposition from residents.

Most of the objections to the helicopter service centred around plans to run it out of Galway Airport in Carnmore, some five miles east of Galway city.

Locals had feared that the 30-mile distance between Carnmore and Rossaveal, from where ferries to the islands depart, would leave travellers stranded if flights were cancelled.

Read: Aran Islands helicopter contract on hold (for now), but residents are still concerned

Read: ‘Abandoned’ islanders slam scrapping of plane service

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Catherine Healy

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