Fears over future of Magilligan to Greencastle ferry spark wave of support
More than 1,000 people signed a petition to save the Magilligan to Greencastle ferry within 12 hours of the campaign being set up.
The ferry, which was part funded by Limavady and Donegal councils and has been operating for 13 years, is key to the tourism industry in both areas.
Since then, Foyle Ferries has carried almost three million passengers. However, the man behind the company, pensioner Jim McClenaghan, does not intend to renew his contract to operate the ferry in March. He has sold his ferry to Frazer Ferries in Carlingford but he has backed calls for the service to be saved.
Mr McClenaghan said the loss to the local economy would be huge if the ferry service ended.
He said it had always operated on a shoestring but was able to keep going because of subsidies from Causeway Coast and Glens Council and Donegal County Council. “But if they are not forthcoming then it would be nigh on impossible to keep going,” he said.
“This was why I told them I would not be renewing the contract in March 2016 but also because I am 68 now and don’t need the hassle.
“The two councils were very quick to ask me to reconsider because they know the value of the ferry to both areas, and have told me how important it is to the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal and to the Giant’s Causeway and Glens of Antrim. But at the same time they were not prepared to do anything to save it.
“What needs to happen is that the two councils take the service over and put it out to tender.
“We would work with whoever is operating it because I really don’t want to see it end, it has served the region well and it will sadden me greatly if it isn’t retained.”
The ferry is used by tourists and commuters, who can save an average 90 minutes’ drive daily.
An online petition to save the service was launched at the weekend and has almost 1,150 signatures already.
The petition organiser said: “The cost of running the ferry has become unaffordable for the ferry company and, as a result, they have now had no choice but to stop the service. This doesn’t have to be the case.
“There are a number of other ferries running in Northern Ireland that are funded by the government, such as the Strangford ferry which receives approx £2m per year and they are also due to receive a new ferry costing almost £6m.
“Because the Greencastle-Magilligan Ferry is cross-jurisdictional it apparently cannot get funding.
“If this service is cancelled many people will lose their jobs, not just those working on the ferry but the businesses that are located in and around the ferry ports.”