I’m responsible for what I say. I’m not responsible for what you hear.

If you haven’t heard yet, the ferry service to the island I live on, Inis Mor, ended yesterday. I was on the final voyage home after having ventured to the mainland that morning.

Just before boarding the ferry, I was approached by a newspaper photographer asking was I living on the island and, if so, could he take my photo. I said yes and he requested that I “look sad”. Huh, really? ‘Click’ went his camera. But I wasn’t exactly feeling sad.

“What does losing the ferry service mean to you?” he asked. “Where do I even begin?” was my reply. Now, I don’t know was he just hurried or if he didn’t understand how serious I was, but he then drew attention to the many full bags I was toting.

“Christmas shopping?”

“Some” is all I said. I really didn’t want to share what was in my bags and trolley. I had purchased new sneakers for my children and a special dress for one of my daughters who is soon having her first Christmas dinner at secondary/high school.  I also had some food for someone in my house with special dietary considerations and I had attended a dental appointment; all things I couldn’t do on the island. And yes, some Christmas gifts too.

Several times he looked away from me and up the gangway to the other people who were also making their way towards the ferry. He asked for my phone number and would it be alright for a reporter to call me. Then, while walking away, he looked back at me and said seriously, “Okay, it’s about Christmas.”

What?! He was nearly out of range when I said, “Have that reporter call me, okay?” He was gone and I boarded the ferry.

After sitting down, I had an awful feeling of being misunderstood, of having been put in a position to hurriedly answer an important question which I was unprepared for by someone who was only half listening.

Immediately, I pulled out a pen and on the back of a receipt I wrote what I would have said had the ferry not been leaving so soon, had I been able to think more clearly on the spot, and had he not been determined to photograph other ‘sad’ Island Ferries swan songers.

I would have told him this:

Our entire lifestyle is threatened by the loss of our ferry service. Employment, health care, education, family, entertainment, recreation, and numerous other needs are all accessed via the ferry. Having no ferry is equivalent to cutting off our legs; our mobility is severely limited and there’s no crutch that can accommodate the numbers of islanders and visitors who travel to and from day to day. The loss of the ferry will cripple the island, having a huge impact on its very existence. It’s serious and it needs to be sorted out once and for all and as soon as possible.

I also jotted down a few words that reveal how I feel more adequately than ‘sad’:

  1. vulnerable; why is it that our needs are so ill-considered?
  2. worried; when will the service resume?
  3. frustrated; why won’t the responsible politicians sort this out?
  4. mad; why must we carry the burden of their shortsightedness?

This post is by no means meant to be critical of the photographer or the ferry service. Even people who share the same experience will have different interpretations of it so there are as many different perspectives as there are people in the world. Of course, I take responsibility for not conveying my deep feelings when the window of opportunity, small as it was, presented itself. Verbal communication can be woefully inadequate to impart intentions, opening the door for misunderstanding.

Obviously, this post can’t cover every situation in human interactions, and it certainly isn’t meant to be taken as a serious analysis of human communication, it’s just some things that I wanted to share because a reporter hasn’t called.

If by chance my photo is printed in a newspaper captioned ‘Loss of ferry service is a great inconvenience to islander’s Christmas shopping’, please understand it has much greater implications than anything materialistic. There’s nothing funny about our situation and many families could end up spending Christmas apart if it isn’t sorted out soon.

Please light a candle, say a prayer, or whatever is your custom to show solidarity with others who are faced with righting a wrong done to them. We could use all the support available in our time of vulnerability.

Sincerely, Melissa

56 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    Hey Melissa,

    Had to take the ferry last year when flights back to the mainland were cancelled. Two boats full boats left in what were quite rough conditions. It led to a conversation of “what if,,,,?” and I’m curious as to how that will work with you / the islanders now, should Aer Arann not be able to fly due to conditions.

    Best wishes
    Peter

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Melissa, your post said a lot of what I wanted to write/say/holler out to the world. The tears just keep flowing, mostly in frustration that we are not and have not been listened to. The boat is our BUS EIREANN ithe sea is our M50 N27, when a national road is repaired or upgraded the local council do not stop each car travelling that road for ever after collecting a levy for the pleasure of travelling the new road. I’m sure if they did they’d be told we pay our taxes be it road tax or paye, unfortunately so do we but here we are now, not with a diversion sign on our road but road closed for the next three months. Who would accept that? And the most annoying part of it all is that the CO CO are standing on principle for 40c. SHAME ON THEM!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi neighbor, I can’t express how much I appreciate you elaborating on our situation. I completely agree with your point of view and think it helps give an even better understanding about our situation to readers both near and far who do not share our intimate connection with the island. Thanks Siobhán

      Like

  3. Know that I wish you the best and highest outcome to this awful situation.

    I have lived on the coastline of North Carolina in the US where the ferries are an intricate, vital, and loved means of connection for residents, commerce, and visitors alike. Bridges caused the discontinuation of several . Periodically there is a ‘threat’ to discontinue a remaining targeted ferry service. People really organize and protest it, and simply do not take a closing as an option. The ferries continue to run.

    You are extremely articulate and an excellent voice for the continuation of the vital ferry service to and from your island. Perhaps the reporter was simply the universe giving you a nudge for further engagement and activism to keep the ferry service running.

    A beautiful post about an issue clearly important to your community. Thank you. 🎄

    Liked by 3 people

    • I too had similar thoughts about my interaction with the gentleman, believing all is happening for a reason. He certainly did inspire me.
      Still, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Hard not to feel abandoned and stranded when that is exactly the situation. Ireland is so much smaller – no excuse just a reality that I’ve always noticed different than in the States. The power of the people is not a concept all have embraced here. To put it another way, Irish folk for the most part discuss very politely and are careful not to offend…something America could learn from. Same goes the other way – sometimes the hard line is the only way to get results, perhaps why the ferry company finally stopped talking and took action. The politicians weren’t taking them or us seriously. What to do? Sometimes the hard decisions are the hardest to live with. I’m still optimistic that this can and will be resolved.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Is there no other boat service on and off the island then; other than private boats? I can’t imagine how you are feeling. But, I have to imagine some outfit will start a new the shuttle service to and from the mainland if there is money to be made. My thoughts are with you and your family Melissa.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a tough time of year, with the holidays and all, but every day will be a struggle as people can’t make appointments or visit loved ones and so much more. Students can’t travel home for the weekend, islanders can’t leave, nor can they return home. And of course, there are tourists, plenty who enjoy this quieter time of year to visit. It has an immediate impact on everything and everyone associated with the island.

      Like

  5. This has made me so sad since I first heard about it. We used the ferry to connect to Inis Mor and Inis Ma’an every time we went. I’m saddened and worried for you and my family there. I hope it gets resolved. It is about more than Christmas.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    Was thinking of you and your family when I heard this on the news. Sounds like another Irish mess. I do hope it all gets sorted as soon as possible for all Islanders sake.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sally Boynton Savage says:

    There are many things we all could go without but not having ferry service is the same to me as not having the basics like food, shelter and electricity. Seems like many would have to leave the island for many reasons like health issues. I do hope you hear good news soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly Sally. And not only to leave the island but to return to it. There are students and workers who would like to come home to their families but they can’t. The nine-seater planes can’t handle the demand, and if they somehow manage to, it would be financially impossible for many to utilize it on any steady basis. It’s a disastrously mishandled situation.

      Like

  8. susurrus says:

    I’m so sorry that it has come to this. I hope the powers that be and the ferry company come to an agreement which recognises that the islanders are valued customers too, not just the seasonal visitors.

    It’s not much consolation, but in my experience, it’s tricky to deflect a reporter on a mission. If the editor briefs in a particular angle, that’s what they’ll aim to get. That doesn’t mean they can’t be friends to you now if you carry on reaching out to them with stories like this that they can use. Like you, I can’t believe they can just walk away from their responsibilities and leave you all in this predicament.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The press is very supportive and I think he had good intentions, just not enough time (and perhaps empathy?) to grasp that this is a serious heart issue for us all. Of course, I didn’t make that point to him either. We’ll see what tomorrow brings…off to bed for me now.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Kathleen Mary says:

    Dear Melissa, I have been following your blog for quite a while, ever since you complimented a photo my husband took on your beautiful island. I first visited Inis Mor in 1983 before there were cars, then in 1995 and again in 2014. From the moment I stepped off the ferry, I felt I had come home and have never felt this way about a place before or since. I introduced my husband, a wonderful photographer to Inis Mor on the 1995 trip and he loves it as well. We even created a book of photos and writings about the island for our families.I love following your blog and hearing about the life you are creating on Inis Mor with Johnny and your kids. I was shocked to hear this news about the ferry and can’t imagine how this terrible decision could have been made and how it will affect the lives of you and your fellow islanders. We will be praying that sensible heads will prevail and that the voices of the islanders will be heard. My very best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday. I will be back to visit my very favorite place in the entire world before too long. All my best to you and your family.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I wonder which photo that was? Do you remember? Was it of a church? Hmmm, you’ve got me curious. We only spent one day without the ferry when a meeting was held and they agreed to run for us through the holidays, so we have until Jan 4th to figure this mess out. Otherwise, we will be in the same situation all over again. Fingers crossed for common ground to be reached amongst all parties involved.

      It’s very nice to meet you. Kathleen Mary is a nice Irish name. Are you in the country or writing from elsewhere? Lovely to dialogue with you. Hope you had a nice weekend (sorry for my late reply, I was away Saturday and baking all day on Sunday. Take care now, Melissa

      Like

    • Well, a bit of sense for the moment it seems…perhaps you’ve heard that the ferry is sailing until January 4th, a bit of holiday compassion and some time to work on a fair solution that all can live with. A band-aid for now, but we’ll take it.

      Like

  10. singersong says:

    Hi Melissa. For those who haven’t lived on an island it’s hard to comprehend how much a community relies on the Ferry. And when it’s not there, how isolated and vulnerable you feel. It is unconscionable that the needs of a community can be ignored while there is an argument about money. This is not just an inconvenience where say a transport strike stops buses for a day this is for three months! It is an abrogation of the role of government that it treats the vital needs of the people it represents with such disdain. Start the ferries again and then they can sort it out. That’s what they are paid to do. Keep up the good fight. My thoughts are with you. Bob

    Liked by 2 people

    • With the service resumed for a month, please God, all parties can come to some agreement that won’t have us in exactly the same position come January 4. The ferry company had been trying to work something out for months repeatedly threatening to stop service if the financials were not ironed out. We are all optimistic that by their discontinuing the service now the government might take their position more seriously. It’s a shame that it had to come to this (we are a huge source of tax revenue) but, sadly, for an island country, they don’t seem to hold their own island communities in high regard.

      Like

  11. nanacathy2 says:

    I totally get this post. Worry about the loss of transport and the problems that are going to occur. And the media who are guilty of sloppy journalism, manipulating the situation to meet the story as they see it, rather than investigating properly and reporting accurately.
    However, as my good friend Claire says, it’s an opportunity.
    Many years ago we lost our rail service. I used it to go to school and consequently had a longer day going by bus. But from the closure the North Yorks Moor Railway was born and with it 500 jobs. A dying town became a tourist magnet and the town thrives again.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for empathising Cathy. I too believe this will be sorted out, and even if different than what we now know, it will be good for the island. What other way is there to think and keep moving forward? Happy Monday to you!

      Like

  12. thosman66 says:

    Melissa, the thoughts you penned on the ferry and put so eloquently on your blog are inspiring and the honesty is fantastic. Hopefully the Council and Ferry company can come to some agreement that will restore the service, I know as a fellow Galway native that the efforts of the islanders to be part of the county and country is to be envied from a community spirit point of view. Given the time of year shows a complete lack of understanding from the powers in County Hall. Maybe if that photographer boarded the ferry knowing that they didn’t have any way back, that would create a truthful report on what it means to the islanders! Well done again on a beautiful piece!

    Liked by 2 people

    • By now you know that we have a resumed service until the 4th of January though no agreement has been reached for afterwards that all are content with. A bit of compassion for the families that would’ve been inconvenienced over the holidays.

      Thank you for your support and kind words. Fingers crossed for the future of our ferry service. Cheers, Melissa

      Like

  13. Brenda says:

    Ridiculous. The problem with ferries is that they are so absolutely essential to island populations that they make great bargaining chips. The “if you don’t give us what we want, we’ll take away the ferry” attitude is a very effective strategy, unfortunately. Ferry service in Alaska, which was hugely expensive and state run, was constantly under threat of discontinuance or disruption–especially to the smaller communities, who often needed it most. But it looks, from recent news stories (which your post prompted me to read) as if something will be worked out for you soon. I hope so. Good luck.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And the problem with Ireland is that they don’t value their island communities…a bit ironic considering they are an island nation. I like to avoid being negative, but truth is truth.

      We have continued service until Jan 4th while this mess is sorted out and, please God, we are not staring at the same problem then.

      Thank you for your kind thoughts and words and enjoy the week ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. chef mimi says:

    Oh, thank you for this post. I had no idea that you had such a long break in service. Very scary. And for this to be a bureaucratic situation is ridiculous. So sorry. We went to visit an island somewhere in the Hebrides, there were many students on board, and the guy just walked around handing out sea sick bags. Which were used by many. It was definitely a rough ride. This isn”t your boat, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. How do your shops and post office get supplies? All by air? It would seem that from that angle alone, even without all the other services that humans need, it’s nuts to even think of cutting a ferry service. I am so sorry to hear this, so many bureaucrats can be so short-sighted. And yes, where is the empathy! Things like this are what can force families off islands. And then the powers that be wonder why. I hope the bureaucrats and the ferry service keep up the conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have one more than adequate Spar grocery shop and a post office as well. The supplies and mail come in by cargo boat and air, respectively, both dependant upon agreeable weather which is most days of the year. But passengers need the passenger ferry service. We have the ferry for now, but in two weeks we’ll be faced with the possibility of no service once again. So far there’s been no word otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

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