Located on the smallest of the three Aran Islands, Inis Meáin Knitting employs 10% of the 160-strong island population. Founder and managing director Tarlach de Blácam said yesterday the the firm’s business model would not work without air services, as 50% of its products are exported from the island by air.
“The air service is absolutely essential to what we do,” he said. “I dread to think what would happen if we lost it.”
Mr de Blácam was speaking after the Department of Arts and Heritage threw the islands an economic lifeline by confirming it is to provide a €3.6m subsidy — capped at €900,000 per annum — to the air service over the four years, with the contract due to commence in October. The capping of a €900,000 subsidy per annum in the new contract is 29% less than the current annual subvention of €1.27m.
Numbers using the service last year fell by 2,021, or 5%, from 40,494 to 38,473.
The combined year-round population of the three islands is 1,251. Mr de Blácam said the perceived reduction in the air subsidy is a source of concern and requires clarification from the department.
Established in 1976, Inis Meáin sells high-end knitwear garments, with men’s sweaters starting at €250 each, rising to €500, and the firm has stockists around the world, including shops across the US and in Japan, Australia, Germany, France, the UK, Sweden, and Italy.
The most recent accounts for the firm show its accumulated profits increased by €102,117 to €170,475 in 2013.
The firm’s cash pile during the year increased from €183,762 to €279,435.