Bad news for islanders as Rathlin Island Ferry ceases trading
The Ralthlin Island Ferry has today announced that it has ceased trading and will no longer provide a service between Ballycastle and the island, six miles off the County Antrim coast.
Over the last week ferry staff had been staging strike action in a bid for better pay.
A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure commented:
“Following several weeks of engagement between the Department and Rathlin Island Ferry Limited in relation to matters arising from the contract between them, including the financial position of the ferry company, the Department received notification today from the company that it is to cease trading with immediate effect.
"The Department recognises the importance of the ferry service for the local community and has been taking forward work on potential contingency arrangements with the expectation that these could be implemented urgently, and which include seeking to protect the interests of the staff as far as possible.
"It is our plan to provide a further update on these arrangements as soon as possible.”
Responding to today's news, North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said:
"The Rathlin Island ferry provides an essential and vital service and it must be protected.
"Today's announcement by RIFL is disappointing, but the Department for Infrastructure must act quickly to put in place a contingency plan to ensure the continuity of a ferry service between Rathlin and Ballycastle.
“This solution must protect islanders, those who work on the island and also ferry staff currently working on the ferry. I have been in contact with and will continue to engage with the Department to help resolve this situation."
In January the ferry usually operates 10 sailings per day - five in each direction - beginning at 08:00 GMT from Rathlin, home to around 150 islanders.