Minister Joe McHugh has hosted a fact-finding mission for Oileán Thorai islanders as part of consultations on securing a new ferry for the island.
Mr McHugh, Minister for the Irish language, Gaeltacht and the Islands, travelled to Doolin in Co. Clare with a group of islanders to learn about their transport methods.
Looking back on the trip, Minister McHugh said: “I want to thank the members of Comharchumann Oileán Thorai for making the long journey south to allow me to host this consultation.
“Our discussions with ferry owners in Doolin, Co Clare has enabled us to learn more about sourcing a new boat for Oileán Thorai and the process that other operators have gone through to source new boats and consider designs.”
Minister McHugh, Government Chief Whip, was joined in Doolin by manager of the Comharchumman Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill and a number of other members along with Pól Ó Gallchóir, chairman of Foras na Gaeilge and former chief executive of TG4.
“This consultation was not only a chance to see first-hand the different modern boats that are operating from and to other islands along the western seaboard but more importantly it gives us a chance to learn more about the process involved in bringing one of these ferries into service,” Mr McHugh said.
“We want to learn about how the boat owners sourced and secured these boats and to hear what advice they might like to offer the islanders on boat design and style.”
Mr McHugh added: “Along with the initiatives that we are taking here with the ferry services earlier this summer my Department secured grant funding of €359,000 for works on the islands off Donegal.
“We are doing works on the Lighthouse Road on Arranmore; we have plans progressing for new cranes on Oileán Thorai and at Machaire Rabhartaigh, a new cargo operation, ongoing discussions on extending helicopter services and plans to publish a revised tender for a longer-term fast ferry.
“All of this is in the context of this Government’s commitment to secure a new passenger ferry boat for Oileán Thorai as pledged in the National Development Plan.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the Islanders of Oileán Thorai and all the islands in order to put their interests at the heart of the decisions that are made in the Department on transport, the language, connectivity, education, the environment.
“Our islands are truly at the heart of what is best loved and admired about Irish culture and these kind of investments demonstrate how highly we value their communities.”