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TWO RIVAL FERRY COMPANIES have put their differences aside with a deal reached to see the O’Brien family taking ownership of the Liscannor Ferry Company from the Garrihy clan.

Liscannor Ferry Company Limited, known as Doolin2Aran Ferries and owned by the Garrihy family, has agreed the sale of its Doolin ferry service to Baid Farantoireachta An Chosta Teoranta, owned by the O’Brien family who operate The Doolin Ferry Company, for an undisclosed sum.

Under the terms of the agreement, two 200-passenger ferries The Star of Doolin which had an investment of €3m and The Spirit of Doolin, along with the Doolin Discovery, offices and equipment will transfer to the new owners. The Garrihy family following the recession, bought out one of its competitors and doubled its capacity to five boats.

Of the 1.5m tourists passing the Cliffs of Moher annually, it is estimated that 300,000 or 400,000 of those come down the road to Doolin.

Several clashes had occurred down through the years between the rival companies in what had been known as the ferry wars. A January 2015 sitting of Ennis District Court heard how a bust-up in September 2013 over poaching customers between Frank Hughes and Bill O’Brien resulted in Mr O’Brien getting a broken nose.

In August 2005, Judge Carroll Moran ruled that Kevin O’Brien of Doolin Aran Ferries breached a court order aimed at ending the continuing standoff at Doolin but said the breach of the order was not to the extent that it warranted finding Mr O’Brien in contempt that would result in imprisonment. It had been the third time, the case had come before the Judge at Ennis District Court.

Both Kevin and Bill O’Brien had been jailed for one night previously by Judge Moran after being found in contempt of the court order, which restrains the two from threatening or assaulting Aran Islands Fast Ferries staff, while it also put in place an exclusion zone around the offices of both companies, which are only 18 metres apart.

Owned and operated by brothers Joe, PJ, Eugene and Donie, the Liscannor Ferry Company has been a family business for over two decades. The Garrihy family have deep traditions and connections in the North Clare, Doolin and Aran Islands areas, with the family involved in the local fishing industry for many years before founding Cliffs of Moher Cruises and Aran Island ferry service in 1999.

Over the past 23 years, the business has grown strongly adding more vessels and staff to a position where it carries over 100,000 passengers per annum.

Director and Owner of the Liscannor Ferry Company, Eugene Garrihy said, “We felt the timing was now right after discussions within our family. My father and brothers are steeped in the traditions and connections between the Aran Islands and Doolin, starting with fishing and ultimately moving on to the ferry business 23 years ago. I’d like to recognise the hard work of my brothers Joe, PJ and Donie, along with our loyal employees, in building a business that carries over 100,000 passengers per annum and contributed strongly to the economy of North Clare and the Aran Islands. It was also a pleasure to have played a role in the development of the new pier at Doolin”.

He noted of their rivalry with the O’Brien family, “We have always had a competitive but strong working relationship with the O’Brien family throughout the years and we wish them the best for the continual growth of the business. As part of the agreement, we ensured that our employees who wish to, will transfer to the new owners”.

Having sold the Doolin business, Eugene outlined that he will devote more time to the expansion of his Dublin Bay Cruises business which currently carries more than 40,000 passengers per annum, he is determined “to significantly expand these numbers in the coming years, concentrating on the corporate and tourism markets”.

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