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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 29 January, 2020
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'Fast ferry' service for Tory Island ends long-running row

Meanwhile, a retired surveyor who inspected the Queen of Aran vessel multiple times argues it’s “perfectly seaworthy”.

shutterstock_404531971 Tory Island Source: Shutterstock/Maria_Janus

A MEDIATOR’S SUGGESTION has ended a long-running row about the Tory Island ferry service.

Intermediary Pól Ó Gallchóir, a former CEO of TG4, was drafted in over the past week to try and end the standoff between the islanders and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. His series of recommendations were today passed by the islanders.

The mediator’s main proposal would see the islanders take responsibility for the procurement of a short-term contract (understood to be in the region of two months) that would see a local vessel provide the new fast ferry service in the immediate term from 1 April.

The Department will immediately begin a separate procurement process of its own with a view to providing that fast ferry service for the longer-term.

It’s believed that the necessity to have the islanders secure the short-term contract is due to time constraints – with insufficient time remaining before the 1 April go-live date for the State to complete a process of its own.

Queen of Aran

The result means that no Tory Islander who would rather not use the new Queen of Aran service should have to do so.

Islanders have complained previously that the 42-year-old boat the Queen of Aran (which served the route between the Aran Islands and the mainland in its previous existence) 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.

Ó Gallchóir’s proposals make clear that the five-year contract obtained by the Queen of Aran’s current owner will not be broken regardless of what decision was arrived at by the islanders.

Separately, a retired marine surveyor who carried out multiple inspections over 14 years of the Queen of Aran vessel, which the government proposes to introduce to provide transport to Tory Island, says that allegations that the boat is not up to the job are erroneous.

“It’s old, yes, but it’s not like a car,” Captain Neil Forde told TheJournal.ie.

You can completely refurbish a vessel, like a house – it’s well known in the Aran Islands for being perfectly seaworthy.

The Queen of Aran has undergone a refit ahead of its new commission – gaining two new engines and gearboxes, a new wheelhouse, and a lift for wheelchair access.

Ó Gallchóir’s report, meanwhile, which was delivered to the Tory islanders last night, makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • A fast (half hour in duration) 12-seater ferry service be introduced on 1 April, in tandem with the Queen of Aran service, to provide transport between Tory and the mainland. This service would sail twice daily, seven days a week
  • The number of separate cargo sailings between Tory and the mainland be increased to 40 per year
  • A HSE-contracted helicopter service to the island have its timeframe of operation widened from November-thru-March to September-thru-April
  • The smaller ferry vessel be based on Tory Island
  • New cranes be installed both on Tory Island and Magheroarty in Donegal, the portal for the ferry service
  • A feasibility study be conducted regarding the redevelopment of Tory Island pier, and commitments put in place to build a new ferry from the island from scratch (a process likely to take two years)
  • Training courses be run by state body Údarás na Gaeltachta in order to blood future passenger ferry skippers for the island

6376 Joe McHugh_90530408 Junior minister at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Joe McHugh Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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Government Chief Whip, Minister for Gaeilge, an Gaeltacht and the Islands and Donegal TD Joe McHugh welcomed the resolution of the dispute.

“I would like to thank Pól Ó Gallchóir for his efforts over the last 10 days.
“We want to support our island communities and I’m grateful for the hard work and time the people of Tory have put into this process in recent days.

“I also want to thank them for giving their support to Pol O Gallchoir’s recommendations.

“The Department will move to meet its commitments as part of the report.

“Now that ferry, cargo and transport services to and from the island are secure we should look forward to Tory becoming a place where more and more people will want to visit, live and stay in the coming years.”

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