Text from Editor's Opinion, Kerry's Eye newspaper, 14.2.02
Councillors must not scuttle the Jeanie!

The events of the last week that drifted the Jeanie Johnston into the eye of a financial and political storm. They have also spawned the third media obituary of a sailing ship, that has yet to get its first push forward by the winds. There is a typing finger exercise that consists of 'Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party." Substitute 'Jeanie Johnston' for 'party' to signify the end of the third obituary on the boat.

Jeanie is cash rich

There is a simple formula to end this concern, which I broached in an interview I did on Kerry Radio on Monday. The problem is one of timing, rather than finance. In spite of the news reports and extracts from its documentation, the Jeanie Johnston is cash rich and quite capable of meeting its commitments.

A winning Kerry team

The following formula is based on Kerry's history of coming from 5 points behind with three minutes to go in an All Ireland Final. Confident teams and supporters in the Kingdom know that where Kerry is concerned three minutes on the clock and five points of an overdraft are no great obstacle to being able to hoist the Sam Maguire within five minutes.

Solution

The Jeanie Johnston company sold their 4 acre site for £1.1m. A lean on it for a guarantee to Dept. of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht has been lifted. A lean on it by Shannon Development MUST be lifted to allow the sale be completed, so that Shannon Development loan can be repaid the £150,000 from the sale money. That will happen. The Jeanie bankers, Allied Irish Banks, must be paid the £361,000 owed to them. They have been patient, but patience costs money in the world of banking.

Freed from debt

There will be enough money left in Jeanie's cash kitty to replay all commercial creditors, roughly £600,000. This will end the arrest on the ship and the need for any other creditors to take similar action. There is the short term loan from Tralee UDC that must be repaid, but there is still about £600,000 grant to be drawn down from the Dept. of the Marine. That means that the Jeanie Johnson at the dockside in Fenit next week will debt-free with, about £150,000 cash asset to hand to the new trustees to handle any unforeseen situation. That's the day she should proudly hoist her flag. She will be free to undertake sea-trials. If they are successful, she may sail to the USA shortly after St. Patrick's Day.

Funding for U.S. voyage

The cost of the American voyage is estimated by the Kerry County Manager to be €0.63million euro minimum. This should be funded equally by the Tourist Boards of the Republic and the Northern Executive, to help both regions recover from the effects of Foot & Mouth and the Sept 11 damage to tourism on this island. The expertise of the Jeanie Johnston Board is essential to the Local Authority trustees to help seek the funds necessary for the voyage and for earning funds in the United States on her tour. This co-operation with the local authority has already been assured by a statement from a spokesman for the Jeanie Johnston Board to Kerry's Eye on Wednesday.

Negotiate contracts

The Jeanie will prove to be an excellent ship, the finest of her type, as a training vessel or for corporate promotions. It will not be difficult for the Local Authority, utilising the contacts of the Jeanie Johnston Board to negotiate contracts with the Dept. of Defence and others for leasing of the ship for training or pleasure.

Minister stayed with it

Minister Frank Fahey of the Dept. Marine and Natural Resources did a great service to the project and to Kerry in staying with the ship until this hand-over became possible, and by making finance available, when storm clouds were gathering. His faith has been rewarded. His hand on the tiller helped to bring the project to fruition.

Council support essential

It is now necessary for Councillors of Tralee Urban and Kerry County Council to fully support the project and the local authority programme to be presented by the County Manager, Martin Nolan, the Jeanie Johnston Board and Minister Fahey. To use my final cliché, - this is no time to rock the boat. A lack of support can result in repercussions so terrible, that I would not dare to suggest what they might be.

Public behind it

There has been a big upswing of support by the public, once it was realised that the ship, though completed, might not have a future. Offers of financial support will be forthcoming, if needed. I am confident that the formula I suggest, without further investment from the general public, will save the day and the ship. It will enable the country and the county to benefit this season from the greatest and least costly tourism promotion project ever mounted on the USA from Ireland.

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