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on the cliff edge

'It's heartbreaking' - locals 'completely' reject latest state proposals to end Tory Island ferry impasse

“We were expecting proposals, not conditions,” says manager of the Tory Co Op Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill.

shutterstock_348211805 Tory Island Shutterstock / Maria_Janus Shutterstock / Maria_Janus / Maria_Janus

COMMUNITY GROUPS ON Donegal’s remote Tory Island have rejected the latest offer by the government regarding the provision of a ferry service for the island.

Residents have complained previously that the 42-year-old boat that has been granted the new tender for the service (the existing ferry is only 26 years old) is not suitable for the waters surrounding the island, which is situated 9 miles off the northern county’s coastline.

The department responsible for the tender is Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, whose junior minister Joe McHugh is a local TD in the area.

The island’s residents had previously protested the granting of the tender outside Leinster House. Many residents say they will leave the island if the plan for the new ferry service (due to begin on 1 April) goes ahead.

The tender was previously awarded to the company Réalt na Maidne Teo and their vessel the Queen of Aran, which had formerly served the Aran Islands. The tender is for five years.

The department yesterday released its latest three proposals regarding the impasse. They are:

  • Commencing the planning process to build a new vessel for the island, to be provided within two-to-three years
  • The provision of a small fast ferry service between the island and Machaire Rabhartaigh on the mainland
  • Procuring a second-hand vessel for the island, a process expected to take about 18 months

All three options would see the Queen of Aran, currently undergoing a refit in Killybegs Harbour, continuing to provide the ferry service to the island in the interim. The islanders have rejected all three proposals “completely”, in the words of local councillor Micheál Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig.

6376 Joe McHugh_90530408 Joe McHugh Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

“The people of Tory say that boat isn’t fit for the Atlantic waters in Tory Sound,” he told “If the department had consulted with us from day one I strongly believe we wouldn’t be in this position.

I would ask the people in Leinster House to stop playing politics and do what’s best for Tory and find a solution.
We’re at the cliff edge of the survival of Tory Island here.

Manager of the Tory Island Co Op Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill meanwhile described the proposals as “quite shocking”.

She said that the people of the island are of the belief that the tender for the ferry was granted to the older vessel in order to save €67,000 per year.

“We have sent an email and rejected the proposals, we’ll wait on the response,” she said.

We were expecting proposals, not conditions. After six months they haven’t listened to one word we’ve said. We say the boat won’t be allowed onto the island, and they still say they’re sending it.

Uí Chearbhaill says the situation has left islanders “in an extremely difficult position”.

“You’re talking about whole families leaving, people trying to source social housing on the mainland, it’s heartbreaking to think people have to do that in this day and age.

After all the work done over the last few years, it’s just heartbreaking. And it all comes down to money in the end.

Read: Family calls for fresh autopsy for woman who died of sepsis after being ‘scalded’ with hot tea

Read: Northern Ireland budget to include £410 million from DUP deal with Conservatives

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