A row has erupted on Tory Island with residents accusing Roinn na Gaeltachta of downgrading their status and the future development of the island with a ‘new’ ferry service boat they say is 42 years old.
Hopes that the island would be given a new fast service boat fit for modern day demands and expectations were dashed when Roinn na Gaeltachta announced the ‘new’ ferry ‘Queen of Aran’ built in 1976 would replace the 25 years old Tormór from April of next year.
The Tormór was a purpose built vessel capable of negotiating the poor weather conditions often experienced on the nine mile run from Magheraroarty and a second backup boat was also provided in case of emergency: said the island community this week.
The Tirconail Tribune reports that spokespersons said they are shocked and angered at being treated in such an off-hand manner and they claim the new ferry will be much slower.
The say the new vessel comes nowhere meeting their needs going into the future as the community battles to retain its population base and develop tourism.
The islanders have also hammered into government politicians for neglecting their plight over many years and for failing to provide any support to develop the Lighthouse as the most remote outpost on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Experienced seafarers on Tory said they fear the new vessel’s ability for negotiating the notorious ‘Tory Sound’ in heavy westerly seas that dominate this part of the country.
Two meetings of the Tory Co-op in the past week have heard stinging criticism of the politicians who allowed this decision to happen and a meeting between island representatives and Roinn na Gaeltachta has been scheduled to take place in Dungloe on Friday as the residents threatens to boycott the new ferry service.
The new contract is scheduled to start next April. Two companies submitted tenders for the provision of the new five-year contract of service.
An angry and lengthy meeting of the Tory Co-op on Monday was scathing of the decision for the provision of the ferry service and there was much frustration that the community of 150 people are being penalised once more over their location on Ireland’s most remote island.
Patsy Dan Rodgers who has been the island’s main spokesman for a generation said that Tory and its community deserve better than a 42 years old boat.
“No disrespect to either ferry or their operators, past and into the future, what we have urgently required for many years is a new fast ferry capable of completing the journey from Magheraroarty to Tory in half an hour.
“And I can assure the politicians we will not stop until it is provided. The development of his beautiful place that draws visitors here like a magnet demands a fast ferry and one that will stand the test of time.
“Our potential has not been realised because we are treated as ‘the forgotten people’ and anything will do. Well, all I can say is that we are not going to accept a ferry service of this vintage regardless of refits or whatever else they are planning.
“We deserve a new boat; we deserve a better deal from the government but we need public support and political voices and action to allow this to happen,”
Members of the community who voiced their anger at Monday’s meeting which unanimously reject the ferry offer and say the can only view this latest insult from Roinn na Gaeltahta as a punishment for continuing to live on this remote part of Ireland.”
Tory residents told the Tribune their latest plight is similar to the uncertainty in the past three years over both air and ferry services to the islands and how the air contract to the Aran Islands was handled a number of short years ago.
Tory Islanders say the Government’s obsession with value for money belies the return that islands give the State in cultural, heritage and tourism terms. The islands costs the State around €13 million annually but adding that essential services are treated as a sort of charity by some State bodies, rather than taxpayers’ rights.
Patsy Dan Rodgers said ‘the nonsense’ about a new bus service is something that nobody demanded or consulted about and it makes very little sense.
A spokesperson for the Tory Co-op said the Queen of Aran was built in 1976 and was refurbished in 2008. The vessel is a tonnage of 113 and a length of 20.1 metres. She has external and internal seating for over a hundred passengers .
The Tormór was capable of carrying 75 passengers and was constructed in 1992. When weather conditions are poor, the vessel operates from Bunbeg increasing the journey time to one and a half hours. Bunbeg is some eighteen miles away while Magheroarty is nine miles away.
The main vessel is out of service for about a week per year for planned maintenance and annual survey when the standby vessel, the ‘Loinnir, is used’.
Over the long generations countless members of the Tory community have battled the elements in order to survive… against all the odds.
And despite officialdom, they continue their unique way of Gaelic life far from the maddening crowd.Tags: