Friday 24 November 2017

'It would be devastating for the island. The plane has saved lives'

Maura Derrane getting off a Aer Arann Flight in Connemara airport, Indreabhain Galway
Maura Derrane getting off a Aer Arann Flight in Connemara airport, Indreabhain Galway
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

Standing out from her family home in Killeaney on Inis Mór, Maura Derrane has a beautiful view over Kilronan Harbour.

She can see the pier to her left and the airport to her right, about a half mile away in each direction.

The RTÉ television personality was back home on the Aran Islands last weekend when it emerged the airplane service to the mainland is to be replaced by a helicopter service.

She said she was shocked at the decision to end the Aer Arann contract, which she described as "ridiculous".

The service has been "life saving".

"It is part of our life. It would be so weird if it was gone. I would hate it," she says.

"I think it would be devastating for the island - on a human and commercial level. It has not just provided a service, but it has saved lives when people have been ill.

"I can't imagine we can do without it. If you are a tourist, you can fly out, see the island and head back. It is just so easy. There could be 10 flights on a busy day during the summer."

The presenter of Today on RTÉ 1 now lives in Waterford with her husband, but returns to the islands frequently. Her mother, Bridgie, and her sister, Barbara, live on Inis Mór.

"I come here all the time on the flight. The staff at the airport are the most obliging people you have ever met in your life.

"They know everyone. If you are travelling with an old person or a baby or someone who is sick, they will help you out," she says.

Being home on a visit with her baby son, Cal, Maura picked up on the local worries arising from the announcement of the changes to the service.

At the moment, the flights from Aran travel to Inverin in Galway. If flights are cancelled due to fog, it's not far from the ferry in Rossaveal.

But the helicopter service will operate from Carnmore, on the Dublin side of the city. And there are concerns that people will be stranded in the city if the helicopter flights have to be cancelled.

"It is such a handy service at the moment. These planes are called 'islanders'.

"People are extremely concerned and upset about it. Everything was done so quickly. It's a decision that has come out of nowhere."

Residents of the Aran Islands met in Halla Ronán on Inis Mór on Sunday night.

And island representatives will meet with Gaeltacht Minister Joe McHugh in Connemara today, with special boats transporting people to the mainland.

Irish Independent

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