A swell at Roonagh Pier. Photo: Clare Island Ferries

Mayo islanders in renewed plea over pier problems

RESIDENTS of Clare Island and Inishturk, off the west Mayo coastline, are calling on the Irish government for urgent help, writes Joanna McNicholas

In the past two months 52% of their scheduled ferries have been disrupted due to dangerous conditions at Roonagh Pier, west of Louisburgh.

The pier experiences huge Atlantic swells and can be inaccessible for weeks at a time.

As a result O’Grady’s Clare Island Ferry Co. is forced to sail to Cloughmore in Achill Island, which is a commercial pier, unsuitable for foot passengers.

If the islanders sail to Achill, they then have to travel 50 miles by taxi around Clew Bay to collect their cars which are left at Roonagh.

The situation is causing them huge disruption and unnecessary misery.

Since its inception 37 years ago Clare Island Development Company, Cliara, has been campaigning for an all-weather mainland harbour, but to date their campaign has been without success.

Roonagh urgently needs a new pier and it also needs a full breakwater for shelter, so that boats can safely land.

Severe storms in recent years are a contributing factor and conditions are worsening all the time.

While other islands are fighting for job creation, Clare Island and Inishturk are fighting for basic infrastructure which would provide a reliable ferry service and safe harbour on the mainland.

“We have been trying to get help from government ministers but we meet closed doors everywhere we go,” said Alan O’Grady of Clare Island Ferry Co.

Five years ago Ian McCabe returned from the United States to raise his family on his native Clare Island.

“People don’t understand the reality that when the sun is cracking the stones in Westport the island is cut off due to the swell,” Ian explained.

Mr. McCabe, who works for Galway University, has to regularly commute to Galway, but for him, taking the ferry to Achill is not an option.

“I would have to get a bus and travel around the entirety of Clew Bay to get my car before I could even start my journey to Galway,” he added.

The future development of industry and tourism on the islands depends on the provision of proper infrastructure.

Padraic O’Malley, postmaster and shop owner, said “it’s a logistical nightmare” getting supplies for his shop on Clare Island.

Fresh food deliveries arrive daily at Roonagh but if the ferry cannot dock he has to arrange for supplies to be delivered to Cloughmore Pier in Achill.

Clare Islander and Swedish native Anna Gill had surgery in February but because of bad weather she was forced to spend an extra 10 days on the mainland.

As she was using crutches she couldn’t access the ferry from Achill. Fortunately Anna had family to stay with on the mainland, otherwise she would have had to pay for a hotel.

“We need a safe harbour and a proper pier at Roonagh. It’s our lifeline to the mainland” Anna added.

At present there is an online petition requesting government help to urgently provide a new harbour for the long-suffering residents of Clare Island and Inishturk.