Call for Foyle Ferry Service funding

The Magilligan Ferry on its launch day. LV3-705MML
The Magilligan Ferry on its launch day. LV3-705MML

An Assembly member wants Stormont to fund the Foyle Ferry Service out of the public purse.

Department officials are to be called in front of the Regional Development Committee at Stormont to brief members on the reasons why the Foyle Ferry Service is not being funded centrally.

That’s according to East Derry MLA, John Dallat, who raised the matter when it was announced that funding for the Strangford Ferry Service is up for renewal.

Speaking this week, the SDLP assemblyman said: “This justification for refusing to fund the Foyle Ferry Service is based on partition and that is not acceptable in a modern Europe where borders are not supposed to interfere with the development of transport in any form and that includes ferries.

‘The Foyle Ferry Service contributes to tourism on both sides of the border and is vital to ensuring international tourists who visit Ireland have the opportunity to visit both the North and South depending on which airport they arrived at.”

The assemblyman said many tourists arriving in Dublin and Shannon move up the west coast of Ireland and terminate their stay in Donegal.

“The ferry service is the ‘bridge’ which has encouraged those visitors to come North to the Causeway Coast and Belfast,” said Mr. Dallat. “Likewise visitors arriving in Belfast have used the ferry as the natural point to cross into Inishowen. It is really time this matter has been addressed in the same way as rail and road transport is focussed on and my only regret is that is has not been dealt with before now.’

The Foyle Ferry operates between Magilligan in County Derry and Greencastle, County Donegal. It has brought thousands of tourists to both areas every year and recently celebrated its two millionth passenger.

Mr. Dallat has been a vocal campaigner for the Foyle Ferry, and last year told the Journal: “In recent years I have travelled in Eastern Europe, where some of the worst genocides in modern times occurred, and in each case ferry services are operating at full capacity while our ferry service remains tied up in Greencastle. It really is amazing that 91 years after partition, and 14 years into the new Assembly, our connectivity in this ferry service might as well be back in 1921.

“It really is time for Belfast and Dublin to throw away the shackles being used to stop progress and jointly fund this service.”