Fresh fears for ‘tourist wooing’ Foyle Ferry

The Foyle Ferry.
The Foyle Ferry.

There are fresh fears for the cross border Foyle Ferry service after reports the operator has placed it up for sale.

The uncertainty over the Magilligan to Greencastle service comes as Inishowen councillors raised the issue at a recent Inishowen Municipal District meeting during which one councillor said any cessation of the service would spell “disaster” for the area.

Councillor Bernard McGuinness said: “We’re being told the boat is being sold. This would be a disaster for Inishowen if this service was lost.”

The Greencastle to Magilligan service has been operated by the Foyle Ferry company, whose director is Jim McClenaghan, since 2002 and has carried 2.5 million passengers. A report obtained by the ‘Journal’ shows that figures using the ferry have fallen in the past number of years. At its peak it was ferrying 111,000 vehicles and 328,000 passengers (2003) but this has since fallen to 32,000 and 94,000 respectively in 2014, stated the report.

Speaking at the Inishowen Municipal District meeting in Carndonagh, Colr. McGuinness said a meeting should be sought with the ferry owner “to see what the position is.”

SDLP MLA John Dallat believes the two governments, under the remit of the cross-border bodies should jointly fund the project or secure the funding from EU sources.  

“I don’t believe this is the responsibility of local councils. If the ferry service was on a sound financial footing it could operate all year and could be included in tourist information produced by Tourism Ireland, the cross-border body responsible for international marketing of tourism in Ireland. The ferry is critical to wooing tourists coming up the west coast to cross the border to Bushmills Distillery and the Giant’s Causeway.  It is a cash cow waiting to be exploited, but it can’t happen on a stop-go basis which is the current scene.”