There was anger and frustration today for the islanders of Inis Mór who are to face winter without a ferry service. Island Ferries have halted their vital ferry link starting from today due to a long running dispute over passenger levies.
In October the decision was made to remove the service during the winter months due to a dispute concerning new passenger levies being imposed by Galway County Council. This per-passenger’ levies would replace the previous ‘per vessel’ system. The council has voted to collect €0.80 per tourist using the ferry and an annual €5 fee from islanders.
Island Ferries owner Paddy O’Brien believes the passenger levy is unfair and would make the operation of a winter service unsustainable. They called for the reduction of the rate for passengers to 40c and to scrap the fee for permanent residents. The council refused to back down and the halt to service is to go ahead from today until March next year.
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh has written to the Minister for Defence Paul Keogh to ask that the Irish navy provide a temporary ferry service to Inis Mór in the Aran Islands.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said “The news today that the Inis Mór ferry is to cease operating is a major blow to islanders who are greatly dependent on the service. It is an essential link to the mainland and is used by people travelling to and from work and school and for many other reasons.
“Life on the island will be greatly affected if an alternative operator is not found quickly and I have written to Minister Keogh in that hope that the Irish Navy might be able to provide temporary cover until a more permanent solution is found.”