Future of Foyle ferry service '˜not looking good' warns councillor

Moves to resurrect a cross border ferry service linking Derry and Donegal 'aren't looking good', a councillor has warned.

Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:40 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:23 am
No sailings ...
No sailings ...

Sinn Fein’s Dermot Nicholl was speaking after a recommendation to agree, in

principle, to provide subvention for the Magilligan to Greencastle ferry service was voted down.

“It’s disappointing and it certainly doesn’t look good for thefuture,”said Colr. Nicholl. The Magilligan to Greencastle service had received subsidies from DonegalCounty Council and the former Limavady Council.

Magilligan Point.

Lough Foyle Ferry Company ran the service from 2002, but they gave notice not to extend the contract and stopped providing the ferry service as of March 31st, 2016.

Limerick-based Frazer Ferries stepped in last July but pulled out in October 2016, claiming they couldn’t run the service in 2017 on the same terms as 2016, citing losses of up to €100,000.

A call for a new tender was unsuccessful.

Causeway councillors were asked last week to agree the principle of a subvention ”to facilitate the ferry service”, however, before any financial support would be agreed there would be an economic impact survey of the service.

Magilligan Point.

However, unionists voted against it. Colr. Nicholl said only Sinn Fein and SDLP members on the leisure and development committee voted for the recommendation.

“Here was an opportunity for Council to strengthen the island’s tourism infrastructure, linking the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal to the Giant’s Causeway and Glens of Antrim route so it beggars belief the rationale of unionists not to support something like this. We didn’t even get as far as seeing how much subvention would be needed.

“It was shot down by unionists who appear to have no appetite to save this piece of infrastructure.”

The matter will go before full Council at the end of the month.

Colr. Nicholl hopes by that time “something can be formulated to get some movement on it, but it doesn’t look good”.

SDLP Colr. John Deighan also hopes council officers can come up with a new proposal to present to councillors at the monthly meeting “and we can get a different outcome”.

UUP Colr. Norman Hillis said neither the Dail or Stormont feel it’s within their remit, and asked: “So why should it be within the remit of local government?”

“It’s limped along for all these years and no one is prepared to operate it without subvention,” he said.

Colr. Hill is believes not having a ferry service won’t make “the slightest difference” to people visiting Inishowen, or the Causeway area.

“There is a viable road alternative,” he said, adding: “I have nothing against the ferry service. I just don’t think public money should be wasted on it.”