Arranmore ambulance brought to mainland for repairs six times in the last four years

KEY infrastructure issues impacting islanders on Arranmore have been highlighted in a newly-published cross-border project from Noteworthy.

Irish journalist Niall Sargent visited islands from Cork to Donegal to better understand the key issues facing the islands. He found that residents are calling for a platform, not a crutch, through coordinated, joined-up policy to ensure the islands not just survive, but thrive.

The main issues include housing constraints, concerns over healthcare services, damaged pier infrastructure and a lack of support for traditional island fishing communities.


For the community on Arranmore broken down ambulances, no storage for supplies and outdated clinics are among a litany of healthcare provider concerns.

According to John McCafferty, the manager of the island’s community co-operative and volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), islanders have been crying out for a new ambulance without any answer.

The current vehicle is an older model brought over from the mainland, where, Mr McCafferty said, it frequently ends up for weeks at a time out for repair work. According to the National Ambulance Service, operated by the HSE, the ambulance has been brought to the mainland for repairs six times in the last four years, including twice last year.

This is “a big issue”, Mr McCafferty said, as the large island can have up to 50 medical evacuations a year. When the ambulance isn’t working or is off the island for repairs, there is no choice but to improvise.


This includes carrying a stroke patient in the back of his van to the waiting helicopter, as well as tow-starting the ambulance to get a heart-attack patient safely to the lifeboat.

“The list of both dangerous and embarrassing times we have had to do this is growing and we have had enough,” he said. “We’ve been fighting to update the ambulance for a couple of years now.”


In a statement, the HSE confirmed that the National Ambulance Service currently has no short-term plans to replace the existing vehicle on Arranmore Island. Arranmore is also down a public health nurse after one of the two on the island retired last year to be replaced by a community-registered general nurse who is based on the mainland.

Mr McCafferty said that the community was promised a new public health nurse within a year. Not only has this not happened, but the replacement nurse is now being called to the mainland for days at a time, leaving patients with no cover, an “unacceptable” situation, he said.

A HSE spokesperson said that the full-time community registered nurse “is suitably qualified and competent to meet the demand for the nursing needs of the population of 450 people” and that there is “currently no plan to recruit a Public Health Nurse”.

Attracting young families is one of the key solutions to the problems of depopulation and ageing demographics on our offshore islands.

This is exactly what Arranmore islanders set out to do with their Coming Home campaign – working to bring the country’s first offshore remote working hub to the island with connection speeds that would make any rural mainland dweller jealous.


In a bid to attract residents to the island, the islanders put out open letters appealing to the likes of Australians and Americans, to swap the hustle and bustle of the city for a peaceful island life.

The campaign was a massive success, with endless enquiries landing in the inbox of the island’s community council, according to its chair Adrian Begley. However, the enquiries brought up another problem – housing.

“We probably knew at the back of our minds that housing was an issue [but] it didn’t really get highlighted until our story went viral and we had so many people wanting to move to Arranmore. And then it became quite clear that the housing stock wasn’t as plentiful as you would have thought it was. There needs to be initiatives put in place by the Government to make those houses available,” he said.

This story was originally published by Noteworthy with the support of as part of a cross-border project with The Ferret in Scotland and IrpiMedia in Italy. Find out more at

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