A decision against a possible funding lifeline to keep the ferry service from Magilligan to Greencastle afloat, “stinks” and “reeks of hypocrisy.”
That’s the views of local Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors after unionists on Causeway Council voted against a recommendation to agree, in principle, a subvention for the service while a business case would be formulated.
Currently, there is no ferry service and council made the recommendation after the previous operator pulled out. Previously, Limavady Council and Donegal County Council had provided a subsidy.
Sinn Fein Councillor Dermot Nicholl, who revealed his party is challenging the decision through the ‘call in’ procedure, said the decision “flies in the face of promoting tourism.”
“What sort of message is this sending out - that we are not open for business? It’s just sad that we couldn’t even get to the stage where we would be told how much subvention would be needed.”
SDLP Colr. John Deighan said: “Effectively what this says is that we are shut-shut for tourism. I put forward the argument that the Wild Atlantic Way comes up the whole west coast. We have the Giant’s Causeway, let’s bring tourists across. It’s a big disappointment because we should be enabling tourism. We don’t even know what level of subvention would be needed. If council officers came back and said this is going to cost half a million, I’d say ‘no’, but we didn’t even get to that stage.”
Inishowen Councillor Martin Farren said Donegal County Council was “very supportive” of the Foyle Ferry Service and was prepared to make funding available for it.
“In fact, they had tender documents that would have included subvention that would have been ready to go if Causeway Coast and Glens Council had come on board,” said Colr. Farren. “Their actions leaves the future of the service very much in doubt.”
Colr. Farren added: “If it isn’t up and running it would have a major impact on tourism on both sides. The Foyle Ferry has been a vital piece of infrastructure for the region since 2004, and I am very disappointed and very surprised at this decision.”
Sinn Fein Colr. Dermot Nicholl said the decision “reeks of hypocrisy” as unionists voted to support a proposal in Ballymoney he said had the potential to cost ratepapyers in the area, including the Roe Valley, £350,000.
Colr. Deighan agreed and said: “To be honest, it stinks.”
UUP Colr. Norman Hillis was among unionists against subvention for the ferry service. “If the Dublin government and the government in Stormont, not that we have one now, have both been approached and, to my knowledge, both said the same thing - that it’s not part of their remit. Why in heavens name would Causeway Coast & Glens Council feel they have to ask ratepayers to put their hand in their pocket?”
Colr. Hillis added: “If tourists from Japan and China can make their way to the Causeway Coast, surely they can make their way to Donegal from here and vice versa.”
DUP Colr. Sam Cole said he didn’t feel the service would give “a bang for our buck”, and if the previous company - Frazier Ferries -“couldn’t make a go of it then clearly it would be a burden on ratepayers”.
Causeway Council said officers will liaise with Donegal County Council to “discuss and consider the options relevant to the Ferry Service”.