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Clare Islanders lobby for ferry service


LOBBYING Clare Islanders have put together this video explaining their campaign for a better ferry service

Over 400 signatories to letter sent last week to Minister Humphreys about ferry service

Áine Ryan

OVER 400 signatories have supported a letter sent to Minister Heather Humphreys outlining the urgent need for a better ferry service to Clare Island.
“We, the community of Clare Island, are writing to you to request an urgent change to the terms of the tender for the Clare Island Passenger Ferry Service. We ask that you withdraw the tender as currently devised or modify it to increase the minimum daily subsidised service to the island from two to four sailings per day,” the letter states.
The present tender process is due to close on June 8 next with a new five-year contract being issued by the Department of Community, Rural Development and the Islands from July 1.  
The letter argues that a more frequent service is needed for this community which has a vibrant population engaged in remote working, education at all levels, as well as a long list of necessary regular commutes or journeys to and from the mainland.   
It continues: “As a community, we are sick of having to move off the island to find and maintain employment. We are no longer willing to break up our families by boarding out our children to attend secondary school. We are fed up with not being able to regularly access basic services on the mainland. If we cannot get a commuter friendly ferry service, enabling proper integration with the mainland economy, then Clare Island will continue to decline to the point where year-round family life will no longer be possible. The community will die. We need more frequent and reliable ferries so that adults and children can commute to work and secondary school.”
It calls on the department to use a fairer methodology to underpin its funding allocation and its parameters for the tender application.  
“A fairer methodology would have 15 percent weighting for additional services and include an Economic Development scoring. Tendering parameters must be equal for all islands and should take into consideration a balance of; size, island primary school, and mainland secondary school attendance when deciding the minimum number of sailings,” the letter argues.  
Citing the rights of all citizens to fair procedure and, moreover, the rights of families not to be broken-up when it is time to attend secondary school, the signatories warn that:
“Unless there is an increase to the minimum number of subsidised sailings, we will have no option but to escalate our protest and oppose this contract at every opportunity. We will boycott any process for setting a timetable of only two sailings per day. If necessary, we will pursue legal remedies based on Procurement and Human Rights violations. We hope an accommodation can be reached. Failing that, we plan a national campaign to bring our collective dissatisfaction to the attention of the country as a whole.”
The letter concludes that the community had no option but to challenge the criteria of the terms of their ferry service.
“Having taken ownership of the challenges facing this community we feel that, by not opposing this tender, and the minimum service it represents, we would be agreeing to accept an inevitable decline and ensuing death of our Island community that has been viable for at least 6000 years.”
A parallel campaign for the future sustainability of the island through infrastructural and entrepreneurial development has also launched a YouTube video which mainly features the younger members of the community presenting a series of arguments about the primary issues that must be urgently addressed. The ferry service and the options for the use of a second safe harbour during the winter months are among the top issues raised.