EU rules governing state aid for tourism also prohibit aid for the Valentia Island ferry, it says.
The Valentia Island Ferry is of premium importance not just to tourists but serves locals too and is a key piece of infrastructure in the whole of south-west Kerry, a council meeting was told in Kerry this week.
Representatives from the five original families who came together 20 years ago against the odds to form the co-operative to put the ferry in place between the old capital Knightstown and the mainland near Cahersiveen, are campaigning for state funding to allow them replace the ferry with a bigger vessel.
“We are looking for the support of the council not just for Valentia, but for the development of tourism and the economy in the region,” ferry founder, Richard Foran, said in Killorglin.
Valentia is a regular day trip from Killarney now, because of the ferry. The ferry was instrumental in revitalising Knightstown, the old Victorian capital of Valentia.
A bridge which opened in 1971 from Portmagee linked the mainland with the far end of the island but many tourists prefer the ferry.
A new €2.8m ferry has been designed and the co-op will supply €1m, but needs the rest grand-aided, Mr Foran said.
An application for funding to Fáilte Ireland was turned down, despite the tourism body’s largely unspent pot of €65m, councillors say.
“€65m for tourism projects was announced with great fanfare and it has not been spent,” Cllr Norma Moriarty (FF) said. She is urging Tourism Minister Shane Ross to finance the ferry.
“He has the money. This is crucially important to Valentia — but also to south-west Kerry,” said Cllr Moriarty.
Some 100,000 cars and an average of a quarter of a million people are carried between Renard and Knightstown during the season running from the end of March to the middle of October.
The planned 120-tonne vessel, to replace the current 93-tonne vessel will facilitate coaches and 18 cars.
Meanwhile, Fáilte Ireland says it is not possible for them to fund the ferry because of criteria attached to grant aiding such projects under the scheme but also because doing so would not meet with EU criteria.
“With regard to the Valentia Ferry, their application was deemed ineligible under the criteria of the scheme — Section 3.2 of the Application Guidelines clearly state that costs associated with “loose fittings, furniture, road vehicles and boats” will be ineligible,” according to a statement.
This has been explained to the Valentia Ferry company on a number of occasions, the spokesman said.
It is understood that the fact there is a bridge to the island of Valentia is also an impediment to grant-aid for a ferry under EU rules.