Valentia ferry boat works just a 'reprieve'

'Civil servants are running the country, not TDs'

Sinead Kelleher

Works currently being carried out on the Valentia Ferry boat will not save the service and are only an interim solution to help ensure the operation of the service for another two years.

That's according to local campaigners urgently appealing to the Government for the new boat vitally-needed to secure Valentia and Knightstown's future.

The boat is currently in dry dock in Bere Island boat yard, to allow works to be carried out to the vessel in order to bring it up to the required standards of marine safety operators who had deemed it too old to operate.

The works, which are costing €200,000, will give a reprieve to the ferry and allow it to operate for the next two summers

However, after that, the current boat, will no longer be allowed to operate as it is over 50 years old and it would be no longer feasible to invest funds in it.

A campaign has been ongoing to try and purchase a new ferry but there has been no support from either the Government or Fáilte Ireland to fund the new vessel which will cost €2.8m.

€1m of this can be raised by the local company, Valentia Ferry Ltd, who currently run the ferry service.

"The current works will give us another two years which is enough time for us to get a new boat built," says manager of Valentia Ferry Service, Richard Foran.

"We had no choice but to invest this money in works to allow it to operate this season."

The works, he says, are only a reprieve for this vital service and the campaign will continue to try and get a new vessel.

The importance of the Valentia Ferry Service, which runs from Renard Point in Cahersiveen to Valentia, cannot be underestimated.

"This is vital for tourism in South Kerry. This is not about the ferry but about supporting all the industries in the region. The ferry ensures that Valentia is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Kerry, and the Skellig Ring," says Richard.

He warns, that without a new boat, in two years' time there will be no ferry service.

The reason provided for not funding a new boat by Failte Ireland and the Government is because such a project would breach state aid rules, but campaigners dispute this and say that despite repeated questioning no-one will give him an explanation of how it breaches state-aid.

"We have asked them to explain why they can't support the project, but they won't give us a reason. Civil servants are running the country, not TD's and they won't allow it," says Richard.

"Failte Ireland give out funding for infrastructure projects all the time so why not this."

"It is not a matter of if the ferry service closes now but when if capital funding is not found for a new boat."

The ferry service is self-financing once a new boat is purchased. There is no ned for any funding for the project to operate it making it a very viable project for investment.

Local operators of the ferry would be happy to see either Kerry County Council or Failte Ireland take over the ferry service if that was a more viable option, but this is not seen as a possible solution.