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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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Groups outraged at exclusion from 'relevant stakeholders' meeting on ship destruction

“They said they’d call a meeting of the interested parties, but then only invited people who were interested in chopping it up.”

Image: Naomh Éanna Trust

MEMBERS OF A Trust set up to preserve a historical CIÉ ferry are up in arms after the Government convened a meeting on the scrapping of the vessel — and didn’t invite them.

A local TD says he’s also “disappointed” at being excluded from the meeting, and has called on Arts & Heritage Minister to explain why those campaigning for the ship’s restoration weren’t involved in the decision making process.

Ship

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 had called for a 16-week postponement of that order, so that plans for a proper refurbishment of the ship could be organised. Sam Field Corbett — who manages the company that restored Liffey landmark the MV Cill Áirne — said he could arrange for a similar scheme to be carried out on the Naomh Éanna, without any need for public funding.

Ministerial promise

The prospect of a renewed effort to resolve the issue arose last week — after a cross-party group of TDs called for a meeting of stakeholders to be convened to consider delaying the scrapping.

Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd, replying to their Dáil question on behalf of the Minister for the the Environment, said he would express the deputies’ concerns to Phil Hogan immediately “and seek a meeting with the accountable bodies”.

image

[Oireachtas.ie]

Members of the Trust assumed this would mean at least a short reprieve for the Naomh Éanna as that meeting was arranged, and anticipated that they would be asked to send a representative to that meeting. However, on Wednesday the ship was taken from its berth and transported a short distance away to the NAMA-controlled ‘Graving Docks’.

It later emerged that a meeting to decide the ship’s fate had in fact gone ahead, but that the preservation group hadn’t been invited. The only “relevant bodies” listed at the meeting were Waterways Ireland (which manages the Grand Canal Dock) along with NAMA and the Health and Safety Authority.

“They said they’d call a meeting of the interested parties, but then only invited people who were interested in chopping it up,” Field Corbett told TheJournal.ie.

Field Corbett and members of the Trust have raised questions as to why the effort to have the ship scrapped appears to have been arranged so hastily. As it was moved, the 60 year old vessel became snagged in the entrance to the Graving Docks, and part of the concrete structure had to be removed to accommodate her.

“It seems odd they didn’t even measure the ship and the entrance in advance,” Field Corbett said.

image

[Naomh Éanna Trust]

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.

Both the Naomh Éanna Trust and enthusiasts’ group the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland had supported the businessman’s plan.

Ownership

A dispute has also arisen between a member of the Naomh Éanna Trust and Waterways Ireland over ownership of the vessel. Stephen Payne — a captain with P&O Ferries — claims he is the official owner of the ship, and provided a raft of official documentation backing up his claim to TheJournal.ie, including this Revenue cert:

image

[Click here to see a larger version of this image, via Stephen Payne]

However, according to Waterways Ireland:

Waterways Ireland had been contacted by Stephen Payne who asserted ownership of the Naomh Éanna but has consistently been unable to provide documentation showing ownership.

CIE are still the registered owner of the Naomh Éanna. Waterways Ireland is happy that the transaction history of the Naomh Éanna from CIE to the Irish Nautical Trust is complete.

A clerical officer at the Department of Transport’s Mercantile Marine Office also confirmed that CIE were still listed as the registered owners.

Payne, however, is adamant that his documents prove ownership, and has speculated that Waterways Ireland are attempting to have the ship scrapped before this can be properly established.

Minister

Labour TD Kevin Humphreys, who had publicly backed the plan to have the vessel restored, said he was disappointed not to be asked to this week’s meeting.

“I’ve contacted Minister Deenihan’s office about this, but haven’t heard back so far,” Humphreys said.

“We were asking for only a short reprieve so this business plan can be put together, and the organisers of the project were very optimistic it could be done. We weren’t asking for a cent of public money.

The groups campaigning for the ship to be preserved say it’s still not too late for the 16 week reprieve to be granted. Work to dismantle the vessel hasn’t yet begun — it’s being inspected, and stripped of asbestos at the moment, before the heavy-duty equipment is moved in.

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