It seems that Galway is going to lose out on a major new tourist attraction that would potentially be worth millions to the local economy. Campaigners fighting to restore the Naomh Eanna, which plied the route between the city and the Aran Islands, are beginning to admit defeat that the famous ship will ever return to the west.
The Naomh Eanna was withdrawn from service in 1989 and has been lying derelict in Dublin Port for more than 25 years. She has been acquired by the Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication Company, a firm which specialises in the restoration of high quality heritage maritime holdings.
However the company has, thus far, failed to find a suitable investor[s] to enable it to begin work on a major refit of the vessel. Plans included an 80 bedroom boutique hostel, a restaurant and cafe, an island museum and micro brewery. It is estimated that the project would cost €2.4 million in total and the original proposal was that the ship be moored at Long Walk and become a focal point for tourism in Galway.
A shame Galway will lose out
However Captain Sam Field Corbett of the Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication Company says he has now accepted that he has been unsuccessful in raising finance to bring the ship home. “I have worked hard to make the project as appetising to investors as possible and the support of Galway Port Co cannot go unrecognised. I have approached any well heeled business person with even the smallest attachment to Galway, not to mention the limited number of local operators with the required resources. My company even put our fleet of 13 boats up to the banks to raise the money needed to get the project over the line. It is a great disappointment as I am convinced she would be a huge attraction in Galway.”
The Naomh Eanna is currently afloat in a dry dock in Ringsend in Dublin which is in the care of NAMA. In late January a 12 week lease was arranged to explore the raising of finance for the restoration venture. The lease will expire in April and as this deadline approaches the IS&BF is forced to consider an alternative concept of mooring the vessel in the Dublin Docklands. Captain Field Corbett says he has closely followed events in the Docklands, where there has been a huge investment in a new tourist attraction in the 'CHQ' building by a private investor. This is beside the Jeannie Johnston famine ship, which is an established attraction that also has expansion plans in the pipeline. “I am trying to meet with Dublin city manager Paul Clegg and CEO of Dublin Port, Eamonn O Reilly to get their support in accommodating the completed Naomh Eanna at Custom House Quay beside Jeannie Johnston. The challenge of financing the restoration and refit remain, however the possibility of investment from a greater 'pool' of Dublin city business people is more likely to yield a result.”