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Island Communities

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 31 May 2022

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Ceisteanna (12)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

12. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the Dursey Island ferry is operational while repairs works are carried out on the cable car. [27816/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (3 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Rural)

As the Deputy may be aware, I have agreed that once-off emergency funding would be made available by my Department to Cork County Council to support the provision of a temporary ferry service for Dursey Island while the county council repairs the existing cable car infrastructure, which is owned and operated by the local authority.

It is important to note that council is responsible for all aspects of the temporary ferry service to Dursey Island, including its procurement, operation, timetabling and the frequency of the sailings.

My Department stepped in to provide once-off emergency funding for a temporary service to ensure that Dursey Island residents and the local farming community would continue to have reliable mainland connectivity while Cork County Council repairs the existing cable car infrastructure. I engaged extensively with Deputy O'Sullivan on this and thank him for raising the matter with me initially.

I understand that the local authority has now procured and signed contracts for an initial temporary service for a period of nine weeks, which commenced on Monday, 23 May. This service will operate for one hour each side of high tide for three days a week, currently Friday, Saturday and Monday, for people who are full-time residents and farmers on the island. Cork County Council has indicated that it will run another tender competition for a medium-term service that will provide a ferry service until the end of the year. I understand that competition will take two months to complete.

I will only ask one supplementary question. I also want to acknowledge that Deputy Sherlock allowed me to put this question on his behalf. He loves west Cork and mentioned the fact that he brought his young child on the Dursey Island cable car many years ago.

When it was announced that the Dursey cable car would close back in February with no warning, the Minister and her Department intervened in March. She was asked to solve a problem that was not of her making or of her Department's making. She came forward with funding for an alternative form of transport to the island, namely a ferry service. Cork County Council was tasked with procuring that ferry service but it is not working and is not fit for purpose. It is only running three times a week for one hour on either side of high tide. This is not the Minister's fault. This is an issue for the council. The Minister intervened once and I am asking her to intervene once again. I ask her to meet the CEO of Cork County Council, the Oireachtas Members for the area, the council members, if possible, the marine safety officer and some islanders so that we can find a solution that works.

I know that the Deputy is absolutely committed to finding a solution. My Department has tried to do everything it could but the tender response received by Cork County Council in April 2022 was limited.

We thought we would be able to assist in providing a seven-day service but, as it transpired after the tenders came out, all there is now is a much smaller service, in the short term anyway. The Deputy is right that at this stage we need to sit down and figure out a few things. I am happy to agree to the Deputy's request to meet the CEO of Cork County Council and to meet a delegation from the council with Oireachtas Members. The council in Cork is a big council and I would not fit them all in the one room.

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