Island firm cautiously welcomes air subsidy
The boss of an island knitwear firm that counts Barney's in New York among its clients yesterday gave a cautious welcome to the Government extending State-subsidised air services to the Aran Islands by four years.
Located on the smallest of the three Aran Islands, Inis Meáin, Inis Meáin Knitting employs 10pc of the 160-strong population.
Founding managing director Tarlach de Blácam said the firm's business model would not work without air services.
"The air service is absolutely essential to what we do. I dread to think what would happen if we lost it," he said
Mr de Blácam was speaking after the Department of Arts and Heritage threw the islands an economic lifeline by confirming that it is to provide a €3.6m subsidy - capped at €900,000 a year - to the air service over the four years and contract is due to commence in October. The capping of a €900,000 subsidy per year in the new contract is 29pc less than the current annual subvention of €1.27m.
The new contract states that the maximum tourist airfare return is €60.50. Islanders pay €40.25 while under 18s and student islanders paying €27.60 return. Numbers using the service last year fell by 2,021 or 5pc to 38,473 - that includes 5,196 using the Inis Meain service. The proposed subsidy works out at €23 for every passenger.
Mr de Blácam said that the perceived reduction in the air subsidy is a source of concern and requires clarification from the Department.
Established in 1976, Inis Meáin sells high-end knit wear garments with men's sweaters starting at €250 each, rising to €500. The firm has stockists around the world. Accumulated profits rose by €102,117 to €170,475 in 2013. The firm's cash pile rose from €183,762 to €279,435.
Mr de Blácam said "every penny is ploughed back into the business and over the last three years well over €250,000 has been spent on new technology at the firm". A spokeswoman for the Department of Arts and Heritage said it "is confident that an adequate service can be provided at the level outlined".