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Disaster on Dursey is averted

April 4th, 2022 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

David Sheehan, left, with his father Martin, right, meeting vet Denis Kennedy at the cable car for the last time before it is switched off this week for repairs to the towers. (Photo: Anne Marie Cronin)

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THE cutting-off of Dursey island from the mainland for several months may have been averted at the last minute.

With the cable car closing this Friday for repairs, it was feared the island would be inaccesible from the mainland until next November.

But on Wednesday, the Department of Rural Development confirmed it would back a seven-day ferry service for islanders.

Senator Tim Lombard told The Southern Star that the agreement is ‘in principal.’

He said the Department of Rural and Community Development has offered to fund the ‘majority’ of the cost of the ferry service but Cork County Council has been tasked with procuring the ferry to the island.

Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan said that an interim ferry service will be put in place until the procurement process is complete. The final cable car will leave Dursey Island this Thursday evening and the service will remain closed until November while crews work on repairing the two support towers.

Since Cork County Council announced its decision to close the service at the beginning of February, the issue has become highly contentious.

Islanders complained about not being informed, and the Department and County Council became involved in a tug-of-war over who was ultimately responsible for securing access to the mainland.

‘Lessons need to be learned from this debacle,’ said Senator Lombard. ‘The communication between Cork County Council and the Department was appalling, and it had a major impact on the island’s 19 stakeholders.

‘The islanders have been treated in a shocking manner,’ he alleged. He noted it was not just a matter of access, because it also related to animal welfare,  with farmers on the island needing frequent access to their animals at the busiest time of year for breeding.

Up until 3pm on Wednesday, it appeared as if the stand-off between the Council and the Department would not be resolved before the deadline.

Earlier, islander Martin Sheehan had suggested he would have to stay behind to look after his sheep and cattle.

‘My family won’t know when they will see me again,’ he had said before the resolution was announced, ‘and I don’t know when I will see them because the island will be annexed from the mainland. The only other place that this is happening is Ukraine.’

Mr Sheehan said the 19 stakeholders on the island were being sent back to ‘the dark ages’ to use boats to cross the deadly stretch of water.

‘If Dursey was so easy to reach by boat, why did they put in the cable car in 1969, when there were 50 residents on the island?’ he asked.

Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) confirmed that the Council had roughly estimated the cost of running a ferry at €1,000 per day. Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) who was at the cable car when the news came through on Wednesday afternoon said: ‘This is most welcome news. There’s been a collective sigh of relief.’ His brother, Deputy Michael Collins, welcomed what he called the ‘breakthrough’.

Islanders had earlier noted that the running of any ferry over the summer will be weather-dependent as the Dursey Sound is notoriously dangerous in rough weather.

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