Crucial meeting on Foyle ferry service

John Dallat MLA.
John Dallat MLA.

A crucial meeting between directors of the Foyle Ferry Company and politicians from both sides of the border tomorrow (Friday) will decide if the company resumes its service between Magilligan and Greencastle in the coming weeks.

East Derry SDLP Assembly Member John Dallat who has campaigned for subvention funding for the ferry service said: “This is the only ferry operation which currently receives no support to run its service.

“The Strangford ferry service is run directly by the Department of Regional Development and receives financial support in the region of £2 million pounds annually. The Rathlin Ferry Service is supported by European money and while the Foyle Ferry Company received some financial assistance from Donegal County Council and Limavady Borough Council that apparently has ceased.

“This ferry service was commissioned twelve years ago and has carried more than two million passengers, helping to fill tourist beds on both sides of the border. The six directors of the company have received no dividend whatsoever for their investment and that is patently unfair.

“The Department of Regional Development in the past ducked its responsibility by pointing to out-dated legislation which does not allow it to fund services to ‘another jurisdiction’ - something Conor Murphy, the SF Minister of the day, was asked to change but his department declined.

“It is very annoying that 15 years into the Good Friday Agreement it is not possible to find a paltry few pounds to fund an essential cross-border ferry service yet £15 million pounds has been spent to date policing a loyalist protest in Belfast.

“It seems to me that anything in the North West has to be fought for be, it the modernisation of the railway between Derry and Belfast, the badly-needed upgrade of the A5 and A6 roadways and just about everything else.

“This meeting which I am attending together with councillors from both sides of the border needs to persuade the directors of the Foyle Ferry Company that they have the determination to sort out this issue once and for all. If it is failure, then we will be the laughing stock of the entire European Union which is pouring millions of pounds in a TEN-T programme ‘The Motorways of the Sea’, which is designed to connect the member states to improve trade and tourism.”