Gaeltacht Minister Joe Mc Hugh has issued a comprehensive response to claims that contrary to his assertion that money had been sanctioned for a new ferry to serve Tory Island and a new breakwater for Magheraroarty Pier, there's no money on the table for either project.
Deputy Pearse Doherty says he's been told by Minister Mc Hugh's department that non money is available.
Minister Mc Hugh says he and the department are committed to both projects, and money will be made available as various milestones are reached. His full statement follows -
Statement by Minister of State Joe McHugh regarding Toraigh Ferry Service
A number of years ago, my Department, in co-partnership with the Department of Regional Development, Northern Ireland, Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries Ltd and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd in Scotland, participated in the INTERREG funded Small Ferries Project with the view to developing suitable vessels and piers for small islands in the three jurisdictions. As part of this project, a preliminary design was prepared for improvement works, to include coastal defences, at Machaire Rabhartaigh Pier and for a new custom-built vessel to serve Toraigh.
With a view to re-activating this project, my Department will now work with Donegal County Council and relevant stakeholders to progress both the pier improvements and the new vessel to construction stage. With this in mind, a committee will be formed comprised of Toraigh Island residents, Donegal County Council and my Department to contribute to the development of the project.
As is the norm with any major capital project funded by my Department, funding will be approved at a number of discrete stages of each project from the start-up stage to completion.
As regards the new vessel, the Department must:
1. Commence a process to procure the services of marine consultants in order to prepare detailed design of the new vessel and manage its procurement/construction.
2. Award a contract for the procurement/construction of the new vessel.
As regards the upgrade of the pier facilities, my Department will manage this project in four discrete phases:
1. The updating of the feasibility study and estimates provided as a result of the INTERREG project some 10 years ago.
2. The preparation of a detailed design for the works and of Planning and Forshore License applications.
3. The preparation of tender documents and the administration of the tender process for the construction works.
4. The award of the construction contract and monitoring of the construction works to completion.
In accordance with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's Public Expenditure Code, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is obliged to carry out an evaluation of each of these stages of each project and seek Ministerial approval for the funding required for each, as necessary.
It should be pointed out that each of these discrete phases will take a number of months to complete, with pier construction stage taking up to one year, and that even in a best case scenario, it is unlikely that the marine works required to accommodate the new vessel would be completed by the middle of 2020. The process for the planning and building of the new vessel will, of course, be progressed in tandem with the development of the pier with a view to having both projects dovetail at completion.
I should point out that my Department has already budgeted for the indicative costs associated with the planning of these two projects in its 2018 financial estimates.
I can assure the people of Toraigh that both my Department and I are fully behind these projects and are taking the necessary steps to progress their development, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.