News the Foyle Ferry has been sold and has ceased service with immediate effect has been described as “a serious blow for the area”.
The directors of the company confirmed to the ‘Journal’ the vessel has been sold to Frazer Ferries in Carlingford and they will not be operating the Greencastle to Magilligan service in the future.
It is understood Donegal County Council and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council have been informed the company will not be seeking to extend their contract after March 31st, 2016. As the service ended for the winter season on October 4th, it will not be reinstated before then.
The Foyle Ferry has carried two and a half million passengers since it began in 2002.
Manager Jim McClenaghan told the ‘Journal’ they had no option but to cease service and sell the ferry as it has been “running on a shoestring” for a number of years and their “pleas for funding fell on deaf ears.”
Mr McClenaghan said he will now retire. The company’s 10 full time and four part-time staff, as well as the seasonal staff they employed, will lose their jobs.
East Derry MLA John Dallat said the issue of a cross border ferry service must now involve the Dublin and Stormont governments as “a matter of urgency”.
“This is a serious blow to the Inishowen and Causeway Coast areas. We know from statistics that when the ferry was allowed to operate at a realistic cost, hotel beds were filled in both parts with international tourists visiting Malin Head and making their journey onto the Giant’s Causeway.
“It’s a big blow and runs contrary to all efforts to improve the transport infrastructure in the North West to attract tourism and inward investment.
“It’s a legacy issue and it now needs to be addressed by both governments as a special issue.”
Magilligan man Owen McLaughlin runs The Point Bar.
Mr McLaughlin said the news is disappointing, and he believes efforts must be made to replace it as soon as possible.
“It’s hard to know what the outcome will be. It will have some impact on business but we just don’t know how until the summer. We get a bit of passing trade, from lunch times on Sundays. It’s not going to make or break the business, but the trade is always there,” said Mr McLaughlin.
“It has completely changed the dynamic of the place because now it won’t be a thoroughfare anymore. It will be a dead end. People used to come and look at the boat, and that would create a bit of atmosphere, but not anymore. I’m disappointed, of course. We never wanted to see it go away. I hope the service can be replaced,” he said.
Company director Jack McInerney paid tribute to the customers who has used the service over the years, stating their “biggest regret” is that they have disappointed those who were “most faithful” to them.
He said: “The early years were good. We had good traffic and reasonable support from the two councils in Limavady and Donegal.
“Sadly, in the last number of years we have been unable to get sufficient income from customers to make the operation viable and despite approaches to the various departments and other bodies, finance was not forthcoming.”
Mr McInerney said the directors hope that another company will continue the service into the future.
A spokesperson for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said they had “received correspondence relating to Foyle Ferry Services”.
“Options for the future of the ferry service contract will be brought to the Environmental Services Committee for due consideration,” said the Council spokesperson.