Belfast Telegraph

Lifeline for Foyle ferry as funding package is agreed

By Brendan McDaid

The immediate future of the north west cross-border ferry from Magilligan to Greencastle has been secured after Limavady Borough Council agreed to share funding with Donegal.

The £91,000 cost to the ratepayers in Limavady will form around 1.3% of the total rates estimate cost for 2010/11.

The move was adopted despite unionist opposition at a meeting of the council on Tuesday night, meaning the council will now match Donegal County Council’s €100,000 funding to secure the ferry service across Lough Foyle.

The move was today welcomed by the managing director of Lough Foyle Ferry Company Ltd, Jim McClenaghan.

He said: “We are now waiting on things to be finalised. It is a positive step in the short-term to help keep it going.

“In the long-term we are looking at getting funding from Europe from March 2011 and hopefully we will have all that into place for the summer.”

The Foyle ferry was on the brink of closing down last year after an annual Government subsidy ran out in October.

Staffing levels had to be cut in November as mounting losses were recorded.

Donegal County and Limavady Borough Councils have now submitted a joint application to the European Union Interreg IVA programme for future funding from next year.

Sinn Fein representative for the Magilligan area, Limavady councillor Paddy Butcher, today welcomed confirmation of the financial support to keep the service afloat.

Mr Butcher, who had made the proposal last September at a meeting of the Development Services committee, said he was delighted it has now been formally adopted in this year’s rates estimate.

He said: “I worked on a joint committee of Limavady and Donegal councils in a bid to develop a rescue plan for the Foyle Ferry.

“I am delighted that both councils have stepped up to the mark as equal partners.

“We have jointly submitted an application to the EU Interreg IVA programme for funding but we are unlikely to have a decision on that before the summer.

“The new contract is effective from April 2010 and it will operate on a 12-month of the year timetable as previous.”

He added: “We have a duty to secure this facility because once infrastructure is destroyed it is almost impossible to restore it. In terms of our long term tourism strategy the ferry is an institution, quite literally a cross-border institution.”

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