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Why Has Irish Ferries Chosen The Same Name as the Navy?

10th October 2017
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Top - the new Irish Ferries William Butler Yeats and above the Navy's new patrol vessel William Butler Yeats Top - the new Irish Ferries William Butler Yeats and above the Navy's new patrol vessel William Butler Yeats Photo: Irish Ferries/Irish Navy

Hello and you’re welcome to the weekly MacSweeney Podcast

The procedures and practices involved in the naming of ships once appeared to be the product of evolution and tradition, then became the choice of politicians – at least as far as the Irish Naval Service is concerned - and of on-line polling where the ferry company, Irish Ferries, is involved.

So, there will be two vessels called after the poet William Butler Yeats……

The Naval Service’s L.E. William Butler Years - P63 - is the third of the recent additions to its fleet. Classed for offshore patrol, she cost €71m  and was commissioned a year ago in Galway and named by a granddaughter of the poet.

Irish Ferries has decided to name its new €144m ferry, costing double the price of the Naval vessel and now being built in Germany, also after the poet who was born in Sandymount in Dublin and died in France…. The company says the name will be “important in overseas markets drawing a high degree of recognition” and that it chose ‘WB Yeats’ after an online competition which attracted 100,000 entries.

Managing Director Andrew Sheen said the name “continues the tradition adopted by the company of selecting names from the world of Irish literature.” The name, he said, will “sit comfortably alongside those other great literary figures whose names adorn other vessels in the Irish Ferries fleet” but some of which are registered outside of Ireland – in Cyprus and the Bahamas.

The Government decision, which was opposed by Naval officers past and present and by sections of public opinion, ended the tradition of naming Irish Navy patrol vessels after mythical female figures. It was controversial when the Cabinet ignored Naval opinion. The Department of Defence said the naming of ships after “world renowned literary figures” would “facilitate greater recognition for the Naval Service in the international maritime domain”.

On that score Irish Ferries’management seems to agree….

It is not uncommon in the shipping world for vessels to have similar names, but is generally avoided to prevent confusion. Two ships operating in Irish waters - named after the same Irish poet does invite questions – why – and will the duplication of names cause confusion?

So far, there’s been no comment from the Navy or the Department of Defence on the duplication…