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A calm after the storm?

And so, after the successful protest when Ireland’s national fishing industry brought their case to the quayside in Dublin and over two thousand people showed their solidarity with the industry and the coastal communities, the Irish government finally sat up and took notice…

This, we had hoped, is how the story should have read – but sadly it would seem that little has changed and it looks as though we will have to rely heavily on the Independent TDs to be this industry’s voice in the Dail.

Its incredible to believe that just hours after such a passionate showing from the people of the Irish fishing and seafood sectors that Minister Charlie McConalogue met with some industry representatives who had hoped in vain that he would say anything to offer a glimpse of hope after the major demonstration and powerful speeches he must have seen and heard but… he just pulled out the same old script that was written for him last December – “it’s a tough situation, the outcome of BREXIT could have been worse, a task force to restructure the industry has been set up”… yada yada yada…

To hear this yet again is bitterly disappointing for everyone – and I suppose, based on this government’s track record, we should have known better than to even dare dream that they might actually go back to the EU Commission on Ireland’s behalf and fight for better justice in terms of burden sharing, quota allocation, and many other issues.

One thing that struck me at the Dublin protest was the placards carrying so many different messages and highlighting the huge number of problems that we have right now:

· The paltry amount of Irish demersal quota in Irish waters;

· The criminalisation of fishermen through a cruel penalty point system;

· The SFPA out of control and not fit for purpose;

· The ridiculous proposal by the SFPA to insist on weighing at point of landing purely because they refuse to monitor weighing at processing facilities which has been the acceptable system for decades;

· The senior civil servants in the Department of Marine who have governed this industry for over 25 years and who restrain the efforts of any new marine minister that comes into this sector;

· The constant feeding of anti-industry propaganda from our own authorities to the media;

· The lack of defence of the pelagic quotas within EU & Coastal States;

· The unfair treatment of foreign nationals working on Irish vessels;

· The closure of Ireland’s salmon and eel fisheries, which is NOT an EU issue but is a matter for Ireland’s political leaders to look at;

· The SFPA blocking the exportation of Irish crab even though they are of EU standards;

· The lack of Ireland applying for a small community quota for a sustainable and environmentally-friendly mackerel jigging fishery.

When one sees that there are so many issues of concern in one industry then this flags up a single problem – this industry isn’t being ‘mismanaged’ by our government and our minister – it is not being managed at all !

We have been cut off and are just drifting aimlessly along with no governmental authority or control to defend us against the EU, Department of Marine and the SFPA.

With the Joint Oireachtas Committee due to interview the SFPA tomorrow to demand some explanations on how and why this body misled, indeed lied, to everyone regarding the supressed EU 2018 Audit Report, it is hoped at the very least that a new regulation will see the SFPA being forced to be accountable to this committee – but a complete disbandment and reformation of this corrupt organisation is probably to much to hope for.

I also hope that this Committee will demand of Government some kind of serious punishment on the SFPA for all the grief and hardship they have caused the people in this industry in recent years based on an EU report which, in reality, was critical of the operations of the SFPA themselves and NOT THE INDUSTRY as they SFPA tried to make everyone believe.

Einstein said that a sure sign of madness is carrying out the same action over and over again and expecting a different result – this is what it feels like for the industry at this time as we repeatedly tell our Taoiseach and Minister of the crisis we are facing and no matter how hard we try to impress upon them the urgency of this situation the answer is always the same… no we won’t do anything of any real substance to help because we don’t want to upset our EU paymasters.

I believe that, sadly, the fact of the matter is that the Taoiseach and minister have STILL not taken the recent protests seriously – and Mr McConalogue saying he plans to visit all the fishing ports in the coming weeks will do absolutely nothing to ease the frustration of the people unless he has suddenly grown a backbone and is going to announce that Ireland will return to the EU Commission.

And although he doesn’t publicly acknowledge the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance (IFSA), he certainly reads all of the IFSA articles -- so let me offer you a small bit of advice Minister:

If you want to get out of any of these ports without facing some seriously angry protests, then do not come if all you have to talk about is the task force, decommissioning, restructuring the industry, and generally how this government is going to help us lick our wounds from the EU attack instead of how our government is going to help us by mounting a strong retaliatory strike back at the highly corrupt EU Fisheries Commission.

The people of this industry can sympathise if a minister doesn’t understand all the complexities of this sector but for a minister to simply not care about the industry and the coastal communities is unacceptable.

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