By David Forsythe
THE former operators of the Cape Clear island ferry service are auctioning a €450,000 catamaran vessel, following the failure of a commuter service in Devon in the UK.
The Brixham Express vessel was built in 2011 to operate a commuter ferry service between Brixham and Torquay in Devon, operated by Ciarán and Mary O’Driscoll.
A new listing on the Done Deal website says the aluminium catamaran, with a capacity of 96 passengers, is being offered for sale through Aidan Foley Auctioneers in Galway. The sale follows the failure of the Brixham ferry service that was awarded to the O’Driscoll’s company in 2014 but ceased operating three years into a five-year contract. Part of the contract for the service stipulated the provision of the modern vessel but, due to licensing delays, the Brixham Express did not begin operating on the route until 2017.
According to a Freedom of Information request lodged by the BBC, the service carried 3,186 passengers during its history, equating to a subsidy of around £170 per head.
The failure of the service proved controversial in Devon, having received more than €500,000 in State funding and accruing significant debts in the process.
The O’Driscoll’s former ferry service on Cape Clear hit the headlines back in 2009 when crew members went on strike over pay cuts and changes to hours.
The vessel that operated the Cape Clear route, the Naomh Ciaran II was subsequently sold and now operates the service to Inishturk Island in Co Mayo.
The couple now reside in Ballycastle in Co Antrim, from where they operate a ferry service to nearby Rathlin Island, but still maintain some business interests on Cape Clear. When contacted, Ciarán O’Driscoll declined to comment.