A 'very unsettling time for all' as last ferry departs Ballycastle for Rathlin Island
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The last sailing has now departed from Ballycastle.
The decision to cease trading followed several weeks of discussions between the DfI and RIFL about their tender contract and the financial situation of the ferry operator, as well as industrial action undertaken by ferry workers over pay and conditions.
In a statement, Rathlin Development and Community Association said: “As you may well imagine, our phones and emails, like many others, have been busy over the recent period considering the concerns we all share over the ferry service, its ongoing support for the island and its direct support for the employees and their families.
“This morning the announcement was made by RIFL that the company would cease trading with immediate effect due to the financial situation of the company.
“A ferry text was issued at 10.30am this morning to that effect, and staff are to be advised of redundancy. The services of an Insolvency Practitioner have been engaged, to take steps to place the company into liquidation.”
The association said it is hoped a more detailed statement will be released by the Department for Infrastructure later today, and thanked everyone for their patience “in what is, to say the least, a very unsettling time for all.”
Alliance North Antrim MLA, Patricia O’Lynn, has expressed regret and disappointment over the sudden ceasing of operations by Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd.
“It is deeply disappointing that RIFL have been unable to come to some agreement with the department, given the importance of the ferry route within the local community,” said Dr O’Lynn.
“The abrupt termination of services will cause significant disruption amongst the residents of Rathlin Island, for whom the ferry is a lifeline, and all that can be done must be done to support them through what is likely to be a very difficult time.
“I have been in touch with the DfI to seek assurances on a contingency plan that protects both the service and workers, and I am confident that the department will do their best for the people of Rathlin.”
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.”