Island Ferries has taken the decision to cease services to Inis Mor from tonight (30th November ’16). This is extremely disappointing and is the result, primarily, of a dispute between the company and Galway County Council which centres on Council bye-laws. It has been the subject of High Court and Supreme Court cases.
As Minister for the Gaeltacht and the Islands, and as a TD for Galway West, I have been in contact with councillors, with the Chief Executive of Galway County Council, with the Secretary General of my Department, with the senior department official in Galway, with representatives of the Island Co-op and with Island Ferries.
Earlier I spoke on this issue on Galway Bay FM – transcript below.
Since that interview work is underway on a proposal that will be discussed at tomorrow (Thursday’s) Galway County Council meeting. It is my hope that this proposal will be considered favourably by both the councillors and the operator and that it will facilitate in the resumption of services.
Firstly, even at this late stage I appeal to Island Ferries not to cease the ferry service.
I have spoken to Island Ferries’ representatives today, to the owner and the solicitor dealing with this issue. I have spoken to both of them this afternoon and I have asked them to continue the service. I have asked them what my Department needs to do to ensure continuity of service and they stated that it is not for the Department, it is an issue they have with Galway County Council.
I have spoken to Kevin Kelly (Chief Executive of Galway County Council), to the Secretary General of my Department, to senior officials within my Department to see what can be done.
I am obviously deeply concerned regarding the stoppage of the ferry service. The operators tell me that the continuation of the service or not will depend on tomorrow’s County Council meeting which is the Budgetary meeting of the Council where I understand the CEO, Kevin Kelly, will be updating members on the discussions that they’ve had with the operators of the Island Ferries. So, pending the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting which I hope is positive and which I hope can bring a resolution or proposal to allow Island Ferries to continue the service.
I am remaining available at all times to do whatever I can in my power to help find a resolution. I am open to assisting the County Council through my Department in whatever way I can.
On a contingency plan: We have been in contact over the last number of months with the navy, for example, and with other operators. Clearly, and I have said this on numerous occasions on the radio and elsewhere, the service provided by Island Ferries is top quality in terms of the boat, its size and capacity, and the journey times. So, any service from another operator will unlikely be of the same standard, and that presents a problem.
Clearly, the preference of the Department is that the service continues and we are continuing to do all we can and I would urge councillors to continue to do all they can to engage on this issue and that the Department and County Council would fully consider the consequences of the loss of the service in terms of the Islanders.
At the end of the day the most important people here are not the operators or the councillors or myself. The most important people here are the Islanders. They are being left in limbo which is very, very concerning. You never know when any emergency might happen. So, I would urge that this issue be at the fore of the minds of councillors at tomorrow’s meeting and that they give consideration to the proposals put forward or the results of the discussions put forward by CEO Kevin Kelly and that they enter into further discussions with Island Ferries, with myself and my Department officials to try and ensure we get continuity of service over the next number of months.