The Department for Regional Development (DRD) in Belfast and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA) in Dublin as well as other government agencies cannot be too comfortable with the negative publicity that continues to surround Rathlin Island Ferry Limited (RIFL) and its sister company, Tithe Saoire Chléire Teo, in Cape Clear, Co Cork.
News emanating from DCRGA sources indicates that Tithe Saoire Chléire Teo is pulling out of the Cape Clear Ferry contract from 28 February 2010. I understand that RIFL may also be facing an industrial tribunal in the spring. I'm told that the DCRGA could find itself in the High Court in 2010 following a legal challenge to another ferry contract award.
The much vaunted Rathlin Express catamaran seems to have spent much of its time tied up in Rathlin harbour; it's also been to Moville twice, Coleraine once and on recent overnight trips to and from the Arklow dockyard where it was built. Perhaps proper assessments should have been made prior to the acceptance of a tender about the suitability of such a vessel for the year round operation on the turbulent waters of Rathlin Sound.
One year on and the Committee for Regional Development has yet to scrutinise the December 2008 report into certain aspects of the awarding of the Rathlin ferry contract. Perhaps the hold-up is caused by the associated EU Commission inquiry into the same contract. The December report has been found not to be water-tight so that could also have added to the delay. Some of the documentation being processed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Department for Transport looks a bit dodgy to say the least. Shadows on copied documents would indicate that perhaps key information has been deliberately blanked out. Perhaps all will become clearer when the EU Commission and the CRD have done their work.
This story has also been published in emara News.