HOPES are high that tourists will soon be able to visit Lough Erne’s most important island church settlement once again.
Almost two years after suspending the service due to “budgetary pressures”, the Department for Communities is now seeking to resurrect the ferry service to Devenish Island.
Access to the ancient monastic island on Lough Erne from Trory Point ended in August 2015 but now the Department’s Historic Environment Division (HED) is seeking to conduct a trial operation of a licensed public ferry service.
The HED is inviting tenders for the service to operate from May to November, in time for the main tourist season. It is understood that several private companies have previously expressed an interest in taking on the service.
Ulster Unionist Cllr Howard Thornton has previously criticised the Department’s “incompetence” in making a decision about the future of the ferry service, which he says has compromised local tourism.
He told the Herald: “While I am encouraged to see that some action has been taken, this really highlights the ineptitude of the Department in dealing with local issues like tourism. Last year’s Fermanagh Lakeland’s brochure highlighted the Devenish Ferry and tourists were turning up to find that the service had been suspended.
“This year’s tourism literature was finalised in February and has been sent across Europe but there is no mention of the ferry to Devenish which would not be the case had a decision been made much earlier.”
Currently a notice on the Fermanagh Lakelands website states: “Unfortunately The Department for Communities Northern Ireland ferry between Trory Point and Devenish Island is no longer in operation until further notice.”
Cllr Thornton believes that whoever takes on the service will be operating at a disadvantage because tourists will not be aware of its existence.
“Devenish is an iconic symbol of Fermanagh but as it’s so late in the day, it will not receive the level of publicity it deserves. Hopefully the new operator can generate some interest in the venture. I would hate to see it not take off due to the lateness in advertising and its absence from current tourism brochures,” he said.
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