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#AranIslands - The Government last night cancelled the tender process for flights to the Aran Islands amid weeks of concern over changes to the Galway Bay islands' air service.

As RTÉ News reports, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Joe McHugh said the European Commission would be notified before beginning a new tender process, and his department would enter talks with the existing provider Aer Arann about continuing their service after their current contract expires next week.

The decision means that the decades-long airplane service will now not be replaced by helicopter flights out of Carnmore, which were to be provided by the State's preferred tenderer Executive Helicopters.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, residents had expressed worry and anger over the change, with dismay over the distance between Carnmore and the ferry link at Rossaveal, and concerns over the reliability of helicopter service in often severe weather around the islands.

Only last week public meetings has been held on Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr to address the uncertainty over the future of the air service.

It since emerged that the Department of the Gaeltacht itself had no confirmation that Galway Airport could be used as a hub for the helicopter service - until Galway councillors passed a motion against it.

As of yesterday (Friday 25 September), Aer Arann had issued no statement over the situation under legal advice after mounting a High Court challenge to the original tender.

And Galway Bay FM adds that helicopters are expected to be eliminated as an option from any new tender contract for Aran Islands flights.

Published in Island News

#AranIslands - Public meetings will take place across the Aran Islands today over changes to the islands' air service.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, residents of the Galway Bay island chain have expressed concerns over the replacement of their longtime daily plane services to the mainland with helicopter flights that are set to begin next month.

Later today (Wednesday 16 September) Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr will host a number of TDs, senators and Galway city and county councillors to address the "ongoing uncertainty" about the future of the air service, which will continue to fly for the time being till February 2016, as Galway Bay FM reports.

In other Galway news, the city is making preparations to deal with what are feared to be the highest tides in two decades.

Waters are expected to rise as much as 20 feet on Sunday 27 September - well above the Spanish Arch quay wall. Galway Bay FM has more on the story HERE.

Published in Galway Harbour
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Galway is deservedly renowned for its many summer festivals of arts, sport and culture, and in a week's time the sailing scene in Galway Bay becomes festive too, leaping to life with the annual Weekend Cruise (Friday July 17th to Sunday July 19th) for boats of all sorts from all around the great bay, with everyone heading out from their numerous home ports to assemble at Kilronan in the Aran Islands.

This unique annual event – organized by the indefatigable and always enthusiastic Pierce Purcell – will in turn usher in the WIORA (West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association) Annual Racing Festival, which will takes place under the Galway Bay Sailing Club burgee from Wednesday July 22nd to Saturday July 25th, but will be staged from the heart of the western capital at Galway Harbour rather than at GBSC's home anchorage across the bay at Rinville.

The Aran Islands weekend is of course strictly cruising, so the plan is to arrive in Kilronan in late afternoon on the Friday and meet up ashore, with other cruisers coming on Saturday. The WIORA sailors from Tralee, Foynes, Kilrush, Clifden and Westport are planning to arrive both days to meet up for a great WIORA & Galway Bay welcome in Kilronan.

The Aran Islands Hotel are putting on a buffet on the Saturday night at 8pm. A marquee is organised and a complimentary minibus is laid on back to the pier. Shower facilities have been arranged between 5 and 7pm to help provide a proper welcome for all participants by the Island and the hotel. 

Although Sunday will see some of the fleet heading North in company, most will head to Galway Harbour, knocking on the sea-lock gate shortly after 1800hrs to be welcomed by Liam Burke, Rear Commodore Cruiser Racing GBSC, who is organising WIORA. It is hoped that many cruising boats will raft up in the docks during the racing event, but please give notice to Pierce in advance if you intend to do this.

Meanwhile, looking to next Friday and Saturday, on arrival in Kilronan, please regard the usual seamanlike proprieties by checking in with Harbour Master Patrick McDonagh. Two years ago in superb weather the Aran Islands Weekend Cruise had 50 boats in Kilronan, which was a record, but if summer returns again that number is very achievable, and a fleet of this size would require some berthing organisation

With nearly 300 boats now in the Galway Bay Cruising Group, Pierce can no longer phone everyone personally, so he asks that the word is passed on, and he'd appreciate knowing directly as soon as you can confirm you are joining the cruise.

kil2.jpg
Now comfortably sheltered within the breakwater, Kilronan retains its very special Galway islands character

As this event is officially under the aegis of the Cruising Association of Ireland (CAI), a number of East Coast members have been invited to join, and subject to numbers, arrangements are being made to charter a substantial cruising yacht which will be available at €120.00 per person - this will include a full day sail on the Saturday around the islands, with night on board and return to port on Sunday.

For the many cruising enthusiasts from other parts of Ireland who have often dreamed of sailing to the Aran Islands, this is a golden opportunity. And the Galway Bay Cruising Group isn't restricted to sailing cruisers– it also includes motor cruisers, sea anglers and suitably sized RIBs.

Pierce Purcell can be contacted at 087-279 3821, landline: 091-797927

Published in Cruising
Tagged under

#Aurora - The Irish Independent has an amazing photo gallery of the midsummer Northern Lights over the Aran Islands earlier this week.

Setting up late on Monday night on Inis Óirr, local teacher Cormac Coyne captured the incredibly rare spectacle - for the location, far from the Arctic Circle, as much as the time of year - with a DSLR camera mounted on a tripod to take the long exposures necessary for shooting at night with very little light.

And the results are astounding, as you can see for yourselves HERE.

Published in Island News

#Fishing - After two lengthy trials – and two acquittals – a trawler skipper from the Aran Islands accused of breaching fishing regulations is seeking costs against the State, as The Irish Times reports.

Inis Mór fisherman John Conneely was twice taken to Galway Circuit Criminal Court this year over two separate alleged incidences of incorrect log entries for his monkfish catch on dates in 2006.

In the first trial in January, the jury found Conneely not guilty of one breach of EU fishing regulations relating to the strictly quota-managed species – a victim of the widely criticised discards policy.

The second trial last week, over similar alleged offences, saw Judge Rory McCabe direct the jury to find Conneely not guilty of a charge relating to keeping more monkfish on board than allowed by quota.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing

#FishFarm - Bórd Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has been blasted by campaigners against its proposed Galway Bay salmon farm for spending tens of thousands of euro on PR for the controversial project.

According to the Connacht Tribune, Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages described as "worrying" the more than €57,000 paid to PR firm Keating & Associates for "communications service", just one of various spends on private consultants totalling more than half a million euro.

The group also expressed concern over letter sent on behalf of BIM to the editors of national newspapers, citing them as an effort to "stifle debate".

However, BIM says the letters were issued "in order to address the publication of inaccuracies regarding BIM and the Galway Bay application".

It also defended the expenditure on consultants as normal operating costs, claiming it regularly hires outside expertise when needed.

Local groups opposed to the 500-hectare salmon farm off the Aran Islands – which would be largest aquaculture project of its kind in Europe – continue to wait for Marine Minister Simon Coveney to make a decision on BIM's licence application, which was originally promised before this summer.

The Connacht Tribune has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing

#IslandNews - Aran Islanders have expressed concern over a new tender for the air link to the Galway Bay islands that could see a significant reduction in services.

As The Irish Times reports, the new tender for the public service obligation air connection has been capped at €900,000, representing a 30% cut.

And this "major downgrading" will inevitably result in restricted airport opening hours and a rise in fares, according to an Coiste leis an Seirbhís Aeir a Chosaint (the Save our Air Service committee).

The news comes a year after ferry visits to the Aran Islands were shown to have fallen by 20% – and just a few months after nine offshore island communities spoke out over Government plans to stop core funding for development.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News

#IslandNews - A hillwalker in the Aran Islands was lucky to survive a 45-foot fall from a cliff top with only a broken leg, as The Irish Times reports.

The 21-year-old woman had been walking near the Wormhole on Inis Mór yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 8 April) when she was seen falling into the water.

A member of the local Irish Coast Guard unit said she was "very lucky" that whatever broke her fall meant she was spared more serious injury, or even death.

Local people walking in the area also went to her aid till she was airlifted to Galway for treatment.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News

#InisÓirr - The Aran Islands might typify traditional Ireland for many at home and abroad.

But it may surprise you to learn that one of Ireland's most modern buildings can be found right at the entrance of Galway Bay on Inis Oírr.

Writing in The Irish Times, Gemma Tipton describes Brigid Keane's two-storey house on the island, with views across to the Cliffs of Moher, as "an excellent example of what a new generation of architecture might look like".

Indeed, the thoroughly forward-looking design, completed in 2013, has just been showcased at the BAU building and architecture fair in Germany – the place that provided inspiration for its unusual choice of material.

Poroton monolithic clay blocks are still a novelty in Ireland as an ecological building material, but in Germany they're "now a mainstream product" says architect Patti O'Neill.

And they're just the thing for this island's often rain-sodden climate, absorbing moisture without resulting in damp.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News
Tagged under

#FishFarm - Bord Iascaigh Mhara is keeping mum when it comes to naming who's expressed an interest in operating the controversial Galway Bay fish farm, according to the Connacht Tribune.

The fisheries board would only confirm than 21 investors and businesses have come forward with a view to running or funding the 500-hectare organic salmon farm off the Aran Islands, which would be the largest of its kind in Europe.

And that's raised the ire of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages, one of the community groups opposed to the scheme, whose chairman Billy Smyth said: "They need to come clean and tell us who the 21 companies are."

He added: "This project would cost €70 million just to get started and there are very few salmon farm companies that would be in a position to finance that sort of capital investment."

As reported last month on Afloat.ie, Marine Minister Simon Coveney said a decision would be coming soon on whether he will give the go-ahead for the project.

The Connacht Tribune has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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