By Helen Riddell
BOATS blocking access to a quay in Castletownbere meant a passenger ferry from Bere Island was unable to land at the height of Storm Hannah.
Due to storm force winds, Bere Island Ferries were unable to operate the normal car ferry service and instead ran a passenger boat.
However, it was forced to return to the island as the access approach to a pontoon at Barrack Quay was blocked by three boats.
Ferry operator Colum Harrington said that access to the area has been blocked on a number of occasions. ‘It’s dangerous trying to squeeze past boats to land at the mooring pontoons at Barrack Quay and at times, as happened on Friday, we can’t land at all.’
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is responsible for the management of Castletownbere Harbour and a spokesperson said the ‘operation of the pontoon is monitored on a regular basis by harbour staff.’
However, John Walsh, project officer with Bere Island Projects Group outlined that there had been a number of access issues at Barrack Quay for islanders, both on their own boats, and using the Bere Island Ferries passenger boat.
‘People with young children have to climb across boats to access the pontoon, and in one instance the ferry operator had difficulty landing the passenger boat to bring in a palliative care nurse travelling to a terminally ill patient on the island,’ he told The Southern Star.
Eugene Glendon, chair of Bere Island Projects Group (BIPG) said: ‘The issue which arose on the night of April 26th was absolutely outrageous and shows total disregard by the Department for the people living on Bere Island.
DAFM is responsible for the management of Castletownbere Harbour and the failure by DAFM to safely manage Barrack Quay clearly demonstrates a failure by DAFM in its statutory duty. BIPG has brought this issue to the attention of the relevant authorities in writing on a number of occasions, and has highlighted that this is a very serious safety issue.
‘Notwithstanding the efforts by BIPG to alert DAFM to the ongoing problem, DAFM has failed, refused or neglected to address the issue which could be resolved without any additional cost whatsoever by ongoing management of Barrack Quay.
‘BIPG will encourage residents of the island to bring this matter to the attention of all prospective candidates seeking a vote in the forthcoming elections. DAFM is ether unwilling, incompetent or incapable of dealing with this matter.’
In response the DFAM described the situation in Castletownbere last Friday as ‘exceptional due to the effect of Storm Hannah’ but added: ‘Should a request have been made to facilitate the smaller passenger ferry arrangements would have been made.’