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Government to increase Clare Island connectivity

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CRITICAL ISSUE Ian McCabe, Clare Island


Áine Ryan

CLARE Island’s connectivity to the mainland and beyond is set to be significantly enhanced with the success of a community campaign to increase the number of subsidised sailings to four daily return trips. The new service is due to begin on July 1, as the busy tourism season for the Clew Bay outpost takes off.
Welcoming last week’s announcement, islander, Ian McCabe, told The Mayo News: “I would like to thank Minister Humphreys and the Oireacthas Committee [ Social Protection, Community, Rural Development and the Islands] for engaging with the Clare Island community on this critical issue and ensuring a positive outcome for us all. A special thanks also to Minister Humphreys and Deputy Michael Ring for allocating funds to begin the process of redeveloping Roonagh pier. We look forward to working with Mayo County Council to bring that project forward.”
Mr McCabe also acknowledged the dedicated service provided by the two ferry companies, run by the O’Grady and O’Malley families over the years. The O’Gradys have operated the subsidised service over the last contract period whilst the O’Malleys have been awarded the contract on this occasion. The two companies run other subsidised services for both Inishturk and Clare Island, as well as a busy boat schedule to facilitate tourism on both islands.
“I’d like to thank Clare Island’s native ferry companies for providing a reliable and safe service over the years, despite the difficulties of dealing with Roonagh pier,” Ian McCabe said.

Community campaign
A recent community campaign, including a letter with over 400 signatories to the minister, outlined the need for more daily sailings. This was also enhanced by a video made by the younger members of the community which was viewed widely.
Making the announcement on Thursday last (June 17), Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, said she expected that ‘the Island community’s requirement for a minimum of four contracted daily sailings on a year round basis will be met’.
“I am confident that the new contract will therefore provide an improved service that will greatly benefit the island community,” the minister said. “I am glad that we will be in a position to ensure Clare Island has the kind of ferry service that will serve the needs of local residents and tourists.”
She explained that once the contract had been formally awarded, her departmental officials would work with island representatives and the ferry company ‘to ensure that the service is being delivered as set out in the contract, and in keeping with the island community’s requirements’.
Minister Humphreys, who happens to have attended a wedding held in the island’s community centre in the summer of 2019, also held a meeting with a delegation from the island last week, during which she expressed her ‘ongoing support for the future development of the island’.
Our Rural Future, the Government’s policy for rural development is committed to investing in ‘critical infrastructure’ throughout Ireland, including the offshore islands. A central plank of the Islands Policy is to ensure that ‘sustainable vibrant communities continue to live on the offshore islands’. With the new focus on remote working, partly due to the pandemic, there is ‘a unique opportunity for people to live and work on our offshore islands’, according to Government.
Clare Island Community Centre was provided with a Broadband Connection Point in 2020, which has been widely used by students and professionals throughout the pandemic.
“Work is ongoing with the Community Centre, the Local Authority and the HSE to develop a high-spec eHealth solution, for which the Department has provided funding of €35,000. This will be live in the BCP before the end of the year,” according to a Government statement.
Minister Humphrey’s department also recently announced funding of €139,000 towards essential works at Roonagh Pier, the main mainland pier for Clare Island and Inishturk.
Ian McCabe also confirmed that the above-mentioned Oireachtas Committee, as well as Deputies Rose Conway-Walsh (SF), Dara Calleary and Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) plan to visit the island together over the summer months.

‘Game changer’
Meanwhile, Fine Gael Deputy Alan Dillon said the increased connectivity will be ‘a real game-changer for people living on the island’
“I sincerely thank Cliara Development Company and island residentsfor their work in highlighting this issue and to also thank Minister Humphreys for her work in ensuring an increase in the frequency of the ferry service. Last month, she committed funding of €747,000 [for roadworks and other infrastructure] to Mayo islands, but this increase in return sailings far outweighs the value of any funding announcements. It will make a real difference to those living on Clare Island, as well as those are considering moving to or back home to the island. I will continue to work with Minister Humphreys on securing a new helipad for their neighbouring island of Inishturk.”

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