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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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New hope for €1.86m conversion of disused CIÉ ferry into floating hostel/brewery

It’s hoped the former Aran Islands ferry can be restored to her former glory and docked in Galway as a floating hostel/restaurant/micro-brewery.

Artist’s impression of the finished refurbishment [Irish Ship & Barge Fabrication Company]

PLANS FOR A large-scale restoration of former CIÉ ferry the Naomh Éanna remain on track, for the moment at least. The investment group hoping to turn the heritage ship into a tourist attraction docked in Galway Harbour is being allowed on board to carry out a detailed survey next week.

Built in the Liffey Dock in 1956 and once used to carry passengers and supplies between Galway and the Aran Islands, the ferry has been berthed in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock since the late 1980s — where she has since fallen into disrepair.

Waterways Ireland, which manages the dock, had been planning to scrap the vessel; safety concerns were raised in a hull inspection, and the ship couldn’t be moved from the waterway under her own power.

Businessman Sam Field Corbett, whose company also restored Dublin landmark the Cill Áirne (‘The Boat’), has been scrambling to put together a business plan since Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan announced a temporary stay-of-execution for the ship earlier this year.

His team met with the Minister last month, and sufficient funds to dry-dock the vessel and determine her true condition were raised through a ‘Save Our Ship’ social media campaign.

The Naomh Éanna, pictured recently [Naomh Éanna Trust]

It’s planned experts will pump the water out of the ‘Graving Dock’ where the ship is moored in the coming days, so surveyors can access the hull of the vessel.

“Should the frames and keel be wasted to the extent that they need replacing then the vessel would be deemed uneconomic to restore — unless supported by the state as is common in most developed countries,” Field Corbett said.

If the former ferry is deemed salvageable, Field Corbett’s team hope to negotiate her transfer to a holding company to work on arranging private finance to restore and refit the ship in Dublin, in line with a business plan presented to the Minister last month.

Gaelgoirí wait for the Naomh Éanna on Inis Óirr in the 1970s [John Carlos]

Following repairs, it’s hoped she’ll be able to sail to be sailed to Galway under her own steam for the work to be completed.

The proposed €1.86 million revamp would include an 82 bed hostel, a 46 seat restaurant, a museum, a micro-brewery and a café.

It’s planned 45 people would be employed aboard the new business. Galway Port Company have already offered a berth for the heritage vessel.

[Note: More photos of the Naomh Éanna can be viewed in photographer John Carlos's new book 'Ireland's Western Islands']

Photos: This man’s been documenting life on Ireland’s Wild Western Islands for over 50 years… 

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

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