Update: Minister for Transport Shane Ross met with Eamon Rothwell, the chief executive of Irish Ferries’ parent company, Irish Continental Group to express the Government’s concern about proposals to shut down the ferry company’s Rosslare-Cherbourg route.
“It is a completely commercial decision, we can’t tell him that he can’t do it,” Mr Ross told RTE’s News at One.
Mr Ross said that the decision had come as a complete surprise to him and that he will make every effort to ensure that Rosslare is not negatively impacted.
He said his discussion with Mr Rothwell had been frank, but off the record.
The decision to relocate the Cherbourg route from Dublin port would mean more business for the company, he said. But he acknowledged that it would put more pressure on routes around Dublin.
He was asked if he knew if Dublin Port had offered a better deal to Irish Ferries, but he said he had “no idea.”
“I’m worried that Rosslare should not be disadvantaged. The port should be helped to do better rather than have everything focused on Dublin.
“Strictly speaking I’m hoping the connection will stay the same.
Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Wexford TD Paul Kehoe also admitted that he “did not see this coming.”
As a member of the Government, he said he was very disappointed at the manner in which Irish Ferries had communicated this message. “It was very vague.”
Some parts of the argument that they had made about customers preferring to use Dublin “just don’t stack up” he said. “I’m a user of the service, I have been for three years and all the customers I spoke to all prefer using Rosslare because of its accessibility.” It will be even more accessible when the by-passes are finished, he added.
“This came out of the blue. For anyone to say that the Government had any prior notice is farcical. They are a commercial company, they can do what they like.”
SIPTU organiser, Paul Cullen, said: “This decision is deeply concerning and disappointing for our members employed in the Rosslare Europort and the surrounding region.
"This has resulted in a failure to complete infrastructural improvements in the port area, such as a new access road.”
He added: “The decision to end the Rosslare to France route is a commercial one by Irish Ferries. However, it is the responsibility of the Government to work to ensure that there is a future for the Rosslare Europort and the economy of the surrounding area.”
The Government has asked Irish Ferries to reconsider scrapping a ferry service to France.
The company said yesterday it is "unlikely" a service will run between Rosslare and France next year.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is a disappointing decision and he hopes it will be reconsidered.
Leo Varadkar says government is asking Irish Ferries to reconsider this and are disappointed at the decision https://t.co/aog7ZI49uG— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) December 19, 2018
Department of Transport officials intend to meet with Irish Ferries to discuss it.
The Irish Road Haulage Association has said that the “vague statement” that Irish Ferries is “unlikely” to operate a service between Rosslare and France next summer, means “they are open to negotiation”.
Verona Murphy of the Irish Road Haulage Association pointed out to the Sean O'Rourke show on RTE Radio One that each ferry carries 1,200 cars and 165 trucks “all of which are going to now be on the M50 which already has huge congestion.”
Ms Murphy called on the Minister for Transport Shane Ross to “let the country know he’s alive and well and to intervene.”
Local TD and former Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said there had been rumours in the area for some time about Irish Ferries’ commitment to the route.
“It’s unthinkable that it could happen, that the shortest route would be axed is beyond understanding.
“It beggars belief.”
Ms Murphy also questioned a suggestion by Irish Ferries that customers were not interested in the route. “Look at the response on social media. I’ve been a customer of Irish Ferries for more than 30 years, no one asked me.
Department of Transport officials are to meet with Irish Ferries over plans to scrap a ferry service in the south-east.
The plans are being described as a "big blow".
The company said it is "unlikely" to operate the service next year but will keep the situation under review.
In a statement yesterday, they said: "Irish Ferries wish to inform our customers that we're unlikely to operate a service between Rosslare & France in 2019. We continue to keep this situation under review"
"Feedback from our customers suggests that it is easier to travel to Dublin Port for most people than it is to get to Rosslare."
The Junior Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin said the service is important for the South East region.
He said the ferry crossing mainly facilitates Irish tourists holidaying in France, but it also brings French and other European tourists to the region.
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said it is devastating news for the south-east, especially given the uncertainty around Brexit:
Mr Cullinane said: "Obviously at a time when people were hoping for an increased capacity to ensure that we protect the south-east from the worst of Brexit, and bear in mind also that the south-east has a big agri-food sector as well.
"I think this will be a huge concern for farmers, for food producers, for the agri-food sector, obviously for passengers as well and for businesses generally."
The company will continue to run a passenger service between Rosslare and Pembroke year round.