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'We're gonna need a better boat': Tory Island locals protest outside Leinster House

Journal.ie logo Journal.ie 6 days ago Gráinne Ní Aodha

a group of people in front of a building © TheJournal.ie Politics A PROTEST HAS taken place outside Leinster House against a ‘new’ ferry, built in 1976, that’s been chosen to service Tory Island located north of the Donegal coast.

Several families who live on the mainly Irish-speaking island have told local representatives that they plan on leaving the island if the “unsuitable” ferry is introduced in April.

Following a government tendering process, the contract for the service was awarded to the operator of the four-decade-old Queen of Aran, Réalt na Maidne Teo.

Islanders and locals from Donegal took two coaches from Letterkenny and Gort a’ Choirce this morning and were joined by Irish-language groups in Dublin. Among the banners hoisted outside the 11am protest outside the gates of Leinster House was one that bore the slogan: “We’re gonna need a better boat”.

a close up of a rock next to a body of water © Maria_Janus via Shutterstock

Margaret Jackson, who’s been visiting the island  since the 1960s, told TheJournal.ie:

“It’s so important to have access, to be able to cross that dangerous channel to get in and out of Tory. The people of the island know what is needed and that’s all they hear for today – to get what is necessary to get from the island to the mainland in most types of weather.”

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, who’s at the protest, told TheJournal.ie that six families have said they would leave the island if this ferry is the only service they’re given.

“When we talk about rural Ireland, when we talk about supporting the Irish language, when we talk about supporting rural communities, you can get no more rural than Tory Island.”

He said that the government needed to buy out the contract and re-tender it to get a new service that wasn’t “built in the 1970s” or was built “before I was born”.

Nobody on the streets of Kildare would put up with buses of 42 years of age. Nobody would travel on the Luas into Dublin if the Luas was 42 years of age.

Local representative Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill said that the proposed ferry service was “unsuitable for the seas around Tory Island”.

She said that yesterday, it took the service two hours to dock due to challenging weather conditions. “That’s what we’re up against, and that’s with a purpose-built ferry.”

She clarified that this wasn’t about making unreasonable demands, but asking for a service that would sustain the island community.

We’re not looking for a brand new ferry, we’re looking for a proper service.

She said that other suggestions made at a series of local meetings were “just not enough” to meet the needs of the islanders.

a wooden bench sitting next to a body of water © Ianmitchinson via Shutterstock

Joe McHugh, the junior minister with responsibility for the islands, who is also a local TD and an Irish-speaker, attended a meeting with locals to hear their concerns.

Following those meetings, McHugh said that the Department was considering “the possibility of purchasing a new vessel, building a bespoke vessel” or “subsidising the provision of a separate fast ferry service for the island” to supplement both the new service scheduled to commence on 1 April 2018 and the island’s subsidised weekly winter air service.

Local representatives including local councillors Michael Cholm Mac Giolla Easpaig and Ian McGarvey are also at the protest, and are hoping a better ferry service will be secured before 1 April, when the contract kicks in.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie yesterday, Mac Giolla Easpaig echoed those comments that a ferry service was necessary for residents of Tory Island.

“It’s very important that we do everything to protect the island,” he said.

It’s important that we protect it and ensure that there are years ahead of them – they’ve enough of a fight without fighting this too. They need a good service to keep this place alive.

Public consultation is key. If they had listened to people from the start, we wouldn’t need to go to Dublin today.

- with reporting from Christina Finn and Daragh Brophy.

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