Saturday 15 June 2019

Ferry axing will mean stormy seas ahead, warn Rosslare locals

In the eye of a storm: Glenn Carr, Rosslare Europort manager, pictured in front of the WB Yeats ferry at Rosslare yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
In the eye of a storm: Glenn Carr, Rosslare Europort manager, pictured in front of the WB Yeats ferry at Rosslare yesterday. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

In terms of company public relations - not to mention community good relationships - it all but verged on the callous.

Just a day after Irish Ferries announced it was to axe its popular Rosslare to France sailings next summer, the company sent out another press release.

With great fanfare, it announced the arrival of the WB Yeats - the very ship that had been planned to operate out of Rosslare - into Dublin today.

It advised a number of vantage points along Dublin Bay from which people could view this "magnificent ship".

In the meantime, the WB Yeats itself sat loftily in Rosslare Europort, performing berthing trials.

The tossing waves and deserted ferry terminal cut a sharp contrast to the bustle of the summer, with its endless lines of cars, motorhomes and motorbikes. Amid the glittering seas and the unaccustomed heatwave, it had been hard to know where France stopped and Rosslare began.

Vivienne Naessens of the Europort Coffee Dock. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Vivienne Naessens of the Europort Coffee Dock. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

But at the terminal coffee dock, Vivienne Naessens admits she is worried.

She doesn't know how Irish Ferries arrived at their decision but claims they did not do it by asking their customers.

"A lot of people are regulars at this stage - bikers from Germany and people from France who love the Irish countryside and they want to go to rural Ireland and to the West," she said.

Only last summer, she opened a second coffee hut in the car park and it was going well.

Derval Dunne and Breeda Kavanagh of Culletons, Kilrane, Rosslare. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Derval Dunne and Breeda Kavanagh of Culletons, Kilrane, Rosslare. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Now she has no idea how things will go next summer.

"There'll be nothing sailing from Rosslare from 8.45am until 6.10pm, except for Saturday morning when the Stena sailing goes to France," she said.

In Culletons Bar in Kilrane, Derval Dunne is similarly concerned. Her best business is from French visitors who spend good money on food.

"They love our seafood, our fish - they have all the courses. They drink the wine," she said.

But Glenn Carr, general manager of Rosslare Europort, is more stoutly optimistic.

Though "disappointed" by Irish Ferries' decision, he believes far better times lie ahead for the port.

"It won't take away from our future plans for the port," he said, adding they hope to grow it by 20pc over the next few years and they have advertised for a business, recruiting and sales manager to attract new shipping lines.

He says the market is taking stock of Brexit and what impact it will have. New facilities will be critical - and Rosslare may become a border inspection post.

"We're hoping for a gap in the market," he admitted.

But local man Billy Roche, who owns the Tuskar House Hotel and the Ferryport House Hotel in Rosslare Harbour, believes it is not enough.

He blames Rosslare's decline in recent years on a bewildering lack of political appreciation for all the port and local area had to offer: "What's going on here is criminal. We're the gateway to Europe."

He claimed people are talking about "putting on yellow vests" to vent their frustrations and to get the authorities to finally do something to help.

"If people aren't getting something done the political way, they'll try something else," he said.

Up the town, in the quaint Breeches Buoy Apparatus house, the local environment group are having their last meeting of the year.

They talk about the sad decline of Rosslare, where so many fine old hotels are now shuttered.

Of the dockside jobs certain to be lost, of the lack of appreciation for Rosslare as a non-tidal port when Brexit could be such a game-changer.

"It's frustrating. There are opportunities not being availed of here," said Vincent Kennedy. "We could become a duty-free port but there is no political goodwill."

Irish Independent

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