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Clare Island Where the Tide of Tourism Has Gone

7th May 2020
The lockdown means the ferry from Roonagh pier near Louisburgh, Co. Mayo will bring no one out to Clare island who doesn’t live there. Above AFLOAT adds is the passenger only Sea Sprinter alongside passenger and ro-ro freight ferry Clew Bay Queen operated by the O'Grady family noting the O'Malley's also have a ferry service on the same route. The ro-ro ferry previously named Árainn Mhór served Arannmore Island Ferry Services to the island off Co. Donegal. The 1972 built ferry was originally launched as Kilbrannan for Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) services on the Scottish Western Isles. The vessel can carry 96 passengers, 6 cars and heavy freight using an on board crane for cargo that can include bales of wool. The lockdown means the ferry from Roonagh pier near Louisburgh, Co. Mayo will bring no one out to Clare island who doesn’t live there. Above AFLOAT adds is the passenger only Sea Sprinter alongside passenger and ro-ro freight ferry Clew Bay Queen operated by the O'Grady family noting the O'Malley's also have a ferry service on the same route. The ro-ro ferry previously named Árainn Mhór served Arannmore Island Ferry Services to the island off Co. Donegal. The 1972 built ferry was originally launched as Kilbrannan for Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) services on the Scottish Western Isles. The vessel can carry 96 passengers, 6 cars and heavy freight using an on board crane for cargo that can include bales of wool. Photo: Clare Island Ferry (O'Grady's) facebook

On Clare Island is Padraig O’Malley's crocery and post office and what is also a wonderfully balmy, sunny day – with clear blue sky above and 7km of turquoise sea separating the island from the Mayo mainland.

“It’s not getting to me,” he says of the lockdown. “My routine hasn’t changed, but I have to be careful because I’m getting stuff from the mainland. If I got [the virus] I’d have to close, and that’d affect the island.”

He is speaking by telephone from the shop, the island’s only one. Each day he takes orders over the phone, and delivers them around the island, often to over-70s neighbours living on their own.

The lockdown, which by all accounts is being well observed on the west coast island, as well as the neighbouring island of Inisturk, means the ferry from Roonagh pier near Louisburgh is bringing no one out who doesn’t live there – only food or other necessary supplies.

With the Covid-19 outbreak the islands are easier to defend by simply shutting down access, but full-time residents are also more vulnerable should the virus break through.

“If it got to Clare Island it’d sweep around something phenomenal,” says Alan O’Grady, skipper of the Sea Sprinter, one of two ferries (the other is Clew Bay Queen) his family runs between Clare Island pier and Roonagh.

“That’s the thing about an island: it’s easy to keep something out, but once it gets in you’re in trouble. Big trouble. And an island is almost like a family (where) everybody knows everybody else intimately.”

More on this story reports The Irish Times. 

Published in Island News
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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