A report on the remote Gaeltacht island of Toraigh, off the coast of Donegal, has said the islanders, in conjunction with State agencies, should agree a three-year strategic plan to safeguard the survival of the island. 

Compiled by Pól Ó Gallchóir, who mediated in the dispute in relation to a new ferry service for the island last March, the report highlights the falling population of the Gaeltacht island, its remoteness and lack of infrastructure and facilities.

However, it also points out the potential of the island and says "the future of Oileán Thoraí remains in the hands of Muintir Thoraí".

The full-time population of Toraigh fell from 169 in 1996 to 119 in 2016 and there are now just seven children in the local crèche, 11 in the national school and five in the secondary school. The 2016 census showed that just under 30% of the population was in employment. 

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Last March, there was a bitter dispute over the provision of a new ferry service for the island, which was resolved when islanders voted on proposals by Mr Ó Gallchóir, former head of TG4, who was appointed to mediate by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

He says there has been a lot of progress since then including the operation of two ferry services and the extension of a winter helicopter service. 

The Government's Project 2040 has committed to a new purpose-built ferry suited to the difficult crossing between Toraigh and the mainland and improvements to piers at Machaire Rabhartaigh and Toraigh. 

In his latest report Mr Ó Gallchóir says that the Department will shortly seek expression of interest for naval architects to design a boat which will be suitable for both piers and the difficult sea crossing and he said its vital that all this work is co-ordinated. 

The report says that other Gaeltacht islands have shown that their future can be guaranteed if the necessary resources and services are made available.

In terms of Toraigh he said the focus must be on the resources that exist on the island - language, music, painting, wildlife and remoteness. Employment is essential for the island and a number of projects have been identified which  could increase visitor numbers, jobs and island income. 

Toraigh has long been famed for its school of primitive art which was encouraged by the late English artist Derek Hill. The best known Toraigh artist was the late King, Patsy Dan Rodgers, who died recently. Among the projects it's suggested could be pursued to attract more visitors to the island and help it reach its full potential, are an art gallery and painting courses; facilities for bird watchers; an Irish language college and the development of the island lighthouse.

The report has been welcomed by island representatives. The manager and the chairman of Comharchumann Oileán Thoraí, both said that the island has great potential but that a lot of work needs to be done to make it a reality. However they also said that progress to date has been slow on the provision of a new ferry and that ferry and the associated pier works need to be progressed as a matter of urgency. 

Colm MacRuaidhrí, chairman of the co-op said that the ferry and the pier works go hand in hand and in terms of preparing for the arrival of the new boat,hopefully in two years,  facilities have to be improved on the island if they are to cater for the visitors the new boat is expected to bring. 

Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill, manager of the co-op, said people on the island need to work together to provide more accommodation for instance and to develop tourist attractions including the lighthouse, the island art gallery and walking trails.