Government to fund replacement of ferries linking Árainn Mhór and Toraigh to mainland

Community Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Pat Carey is considering a proposal that the government cooperate with Northern Ireland and Scotland to fund the replacement of ferries linking offshore islands.

The report of the Small Ferries Project has been published after a two year study of eight routes, including two in Donegal.

Three Irish islands, Árainn Mhór and Toraigh in County Donegal and Rathlin off the north Antrim coast participated in the study, along with five Scottish islands.

With many of the vessels in service on these routes approaching or exceeding their target replacement age of 25 years, report says procuring new vessels and improving harbour infrastructure is key to ensuring that communities have access to lifeline ferry services which are reliable, convenient and affordable.

The Small Ferries plan says thre should be a cross border approach to this process, and proposes the development of a common vessel design.

It says this would ensure considerable cost savings, allow shared expertise in researching new technologies and innovative funding mechanisms and facilitate flexibility in the operation and maintenance of the fleet.

While eight routes were examined during the course of the project, it is anticipated that the project’s findings could potentially have wider reach and benefit for other routes in the three regions.