Swilly ferry operator approached to provide service after travel restrictions are lifted

Donegal County Council to issue long-term tender for service later this year

Swilly ferry operator approached to provide service after travel restrictions are lifted

A call has been made to put the Buncrana to Rathmullan ferry service out to tender for a ten-year period

Donegal County Council has approached the operator of the Lough Swilly to provide the service when the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions allows.

The seasonal service has not operated since last year and has not recommenced due to travel restrictions. The council says it will put the Buncrana to Rathmullan service out to

tender later this year when it will seek a contract for a minimum period of five years.

A contract with Burtonport-based Cara na nOilean Teo to provide the service expired in 2019 and the council says it has not put a new contract out to tender due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. The operator agreed to provide the service again in 2020.

The council said in response to a motion from Cllr Liam Blaney at the April meeting of the Letterkenny-Milford Municipal District that it is seeking an agreement with the operator to provide the service again this year when travel restrictions allow.

“As the picture regarding Covid travel restrictions for 2021 is still not clear the decision has been taken to not proceed with the procurement of a new operator and to seek agreement with the existing operator to provide the service in 2021 subject to the lifting of travel restrictions” the council said.

 “It is intended that the Buncrana-Rathmullan Ferry Service will be put out to tender in the final quarter of 2021 for a minimum period of five years.”


Cllr Blaney (FF) had called on the council to put the service out to tender for a ten-year period. The council said a ten-year period is “too long an appointment term from a

procurement point of view”.

Cllr Blaney welcomed “the very positive reply” from the council and said he understood why it was not put out to tender for another five-year term.

 He welcomed the fact that the council will be putting the service out to tender later this year.

He said a five-year term will give certainty to whichever operator gets the tender, businesses on both sides of Lough Swilly and users of the ferry.

“Hopefully we will get someone with interest in it again and we can build on the good work that has been done in the previous number of years,” he said.

Cllr Ian McGarvey (Ind), seconded the motion, saying the ferry service is one of the best initiatives to come to Rathmullan and it has benefited the town and Buncrana.

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