Donegal North East Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue has called on the Government to find an imaginative solution to secure future for the Foyle Ferry, which is set to cease operations from Sunday.
Deputy McConalogue said; “The Foyle Ferry has been operating successfully since 2002. Last year it carried 160,000 passengers and employs 12 full time and 6 part-time staff. This is a unique service and one which is of great strategic importance to Inishowen and the North West.
“While Donegal County Council and Limavady Borough Council have made strong efforts to provide a subvention for the service over recent years, it is clear a more medium-term approach is needed, involving central government. The approach taken to date is no longer sufficient to address the current threats to the business, as it seeks to get up and running again in Spring 2012.
“I have contacted Minister Varadkar to appeal to him to consider any options that might save this service. I believe that the cost to the State of providing a subvention for the ferry could well be less than the cost to the State of the ferry staff transferring to the social welfare system.
“It has been estimated that it can cost the state anything in the range of €20,000 for every person joining the live register and I am confident that the subvention required to ensure the ferry continues would be a proportion of this.
“I believe a creative approach is now needed to allow the Foyle Ferry service to continue and to secure the jobs of those involved.
This is particularly important at a time when it would be extremely difficult for the workers to find alternative employment. Rather than allowing the staff to transfer on to the social welfare system, the money would be better spent providing assistance to the ferry to keep it operational.
“The Government needs to look at the bigger picture here.
“Closing the ferry could end up costing the exchequer more in social welfare payments than it would to keep this important service operational.
“I am urging the Government to think outside the box particularly when something which has been so important to the local economy is at risk.”