Council to debate Foyle Ferry subsidy

The Foyle ferry last year. (file pic)
The Foyle ferry last year. (file pic)

A cross border ferry service linking Derry and Donegal could be thrown a financial lifeline by councils from both sides of the border, writes Sheena Jackson.

The Magilligan to Greencastle service, previously part-funded by Donegal County Council and the now-defunct Limavady Council, was operated by the Lough Foyle Ferry Company from 2002 and carried 2.5 million passengers since the route was opened.

The Foyle Ferry Company gave notice not to extend the contract and did not provide the ferry service as of March 31st, 2016.

Limerick-based Frazer Ferries then stepped in to resurrect the service last July until October 2016. However, it informed Causeway Coast & Glens Council and Donegal County Council it couldn’t run the service in 2017 on the same terms as 2016 claiming losses of up to €100,000. Causeway Council subsequently advertised for a new tender to run the service without subsidy and since no submissions were received, both councils have since met to discuss the future of the service.

A meeting involving senior officers from Causeway Coast & Glens Council and Donegal Council was held last week.

A spokesperson for Causeway Council said “based on this joint approach, members’ views will now be sought on the principle of providing a financial subsidy for the service.” It’s understood Causeway Council will tonight ask members of its Leisure and Development Committee “to agree the principle of a subvention” to facilitate the ferry service. Before any financial support would be agreed, the ‘Journal’ understands an economic impact survery must be conducted and a further tender process would proceed.

Sinn Fein councillor and Leisure and Development Committee member, Dermot Nicholl said it was a step in the right direction.

“I hope councillors see the merit in this recommendation. I believe it will help promote our tourism product. The service is a vital link to the island’s tourism infrastructure, linking the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal to the Giant’s Causeway and Glens of Antrim route,” said Colr. Nicholl. “I think in this interim period, until the Assembly gets back up and running, council may have to step in and provide a subvention, but ultimately Stormont and Dáil Éireann should be funding the ferry service.”