The new coastal marina facility provides a welcome boost to the local economy as it will strengthen the reputation of Ballycastle as a destination for visiting boats from Ireland, Scotland and beyond.
The new £600,000 facility owned and managed by Moyle District Council provides onshore toilet, shower, laundry and kitchen facilities for boat owners and users of the adjacent award winning marina.
In addition it has a large meeting room and dedicated office space for the Harbour Master.
The building is part funded under the Sail West Initiative, which secured grant aid from the European Unions's European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Cross-border Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. The match funding was provided by Moyle District Council, the Department of Enterprise Trade & Investment (DETI) in Northern Ireland and by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport (DTTS) in Ireland.
Moyle District Council is one of over 20 partners involved in the Sail West Initiative which spans the west of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to encourage the development of marine tourism across the entire region, through a targeted capital investment programme in key marine infrastructure, and a concerted marketing campaign. The Initiative will provide a necklace of highly developed boating, angling and marine related infrastructure aimed at increasing visitor numbers to the Sail West region which is now being marketed using the Malin Waters brand name.
To mark the occasion representatives from the Sail West project partners held their Steering Committee meeting in Portnagree House, after which they had the opportunity to see the sights along Ballycastle Bay, courtesy of Richard Lafferty of Aquaholics who provided a short boat trip. They then joined representatives from Moyle District Council and the local sailing community for the officially opening of Portnagree House. Two other important milestones were also announced at the event, namely the new www.malinwaters.com website, and the 2012 edition of the Welcome Anchorages publication which features Ballycastle Marina on the front cover.
Chairman of Moyle District Council, Cllr Padraig McShane welcomed guests to Ballycastle and had the honour of officially opening the building. He acknowledged the valuable financial support that Moyle District Council had received under the INTERREG IVA Programme and said: "that Ballycastle can now fully seize the opportunity to position itself as a key maritime location linking Ireland to Scotland".
Aidan McPeake, Head of Technical Services in Moyle District Council explained that: "the Council's Development and Technical Services departments have been working for a considerable period of time with our Sail West partners to secure almost €700,000 for the Ballycastle facility. Since our 74 berth marina opened in 1999 it has been a real success story for Moyle District Council, but the shore based facilities which were located in an existing bungalow were very basic, and this was highlighted in user feedback. The Council wanted to ensure that Ballycastle Marina continues to compete successfully with other coastal destinations and to do this we must offer a high standard of on shore facilities which is expected by today's marina users. We were delighted to have been successful in our bid for INTERREG funding to demolish the existing bungalow and build a modern, state-of-the –art facility for marina users. We are very proud of our new facility which has been named Portnagree House after a small nearby inlet, and we look forward to the continued success of the marina and to attracting even more visitors to Ballycastle and the wider Moyle District".
Mr Garry Martin, the Chairman of the Sail West project steering committee and Director of Finance in Donegal County Council expressed his delight at being present at the Ballycastle launch and suggested that: "from a County Donegal perspective the marina at Ballycastle is vital to the future success of sailing and cruising tourism in the wider North West of the island and therefore the new marina building was an important addition to the regional infrastructure."
Howard Keery from SEUPB highlighted that at €7.4 million the Sail West Initiative was one of the most significant tourism projects that had been approved under the INTERREG IVA programme, and that he was particularly pleased to see that the new Malin Waters marine tourism brand was being rolled out successfully. He said that:
"the Malin Waters brand helps firmly ground the seas and coastlines shared by the project partners from Donegal Bay to Belfast Lough, and from Loch Ryan to the Isle of Skye. Other elements of the project such as the Harbour & Marina building in Ballycastle, a strategic location for the expansion of the sailing traffic between Scotland and Ireland, will provide support to coastal communities that are increasingly reliant on the development of the tourism sector. The new Malin Waters website will also build on this by offering comprehensive details on the marine tourism opportunities available in the region and will undoubtedly encourage more visitors to the region".
The announcements relating to the MalinWaters website and the 2012 edition of the Welcome Anchorages publication were equally warmly welcomed by all present. Previously this publication acted as a guide to shore facilities for cruising yachts at 125 locations around the coast of Scotland, including the key sailing destinations of the Clyde and West of Scotland. However the 2012 edition is the first to include details of anchorages on the North West of Ireland and Northern Ireland, coastlines that face the short distance across the sea to Scotland.
Frank McGrogan, Sail West Project Manager said that: "the new edition will put sixteen Irish anchorages including Ballycastle Marina firmly on the maritime cruising map, as over 40,000 copies of this publication are circulated every year, and is also free to download at several websites including the MalinWaters site.