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A Government “sell out” of Ireland’s fishing industry!

Micheal Collins, Independent TD Cork South West – accuses the Taoiseach and his FF/FG led Government of “gross incompetence” in allowing Brussels to sell off Irish fishing interests

“The sector is being slashed by at least an annual €43 million cut – simply due to a government sell out.”

“New evidence illustrates how our Fisheries Minister and the government blindly allowed Brussels to give away Irish fishing quota during crucial Brexit negotiations. In doing so, they have betrayed not only the sector and coastal communities – but the entire country.

Rural Independent TD for Cork South West Micheal Collins, today (Wednesday 31th March) angerly rounded on the Taoiseach, during leaders questions on the floor of the Dáil, about the manner in which he and his Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie Mc McConalogue, sold out the Irish fishing industry during the Brexit negotiations.

“The response provided by the Taoiseach was both flabbergasting and deflective in nature.

“The Taoiseach choose to take a defensive and elusive tone, which lacked any acknowledgement of the extent of the destruction done by his government to the Irish fishing sector.

“Clearly, the Taoiseach’s response indicates a deep and uncaring lack of understanding for the sector. This was previously demonstrated when he signed into law a highly destructive penalty points system, when he was caretaker Minister for Agriculture in August 2020.”

Speaking on leaders question today, Deputy Collins stated:

“Taoiseach, replies I have obtained from a series of parliamentary questions, confirm that the Government, blindly supported the EU negotiating mandate in respect of the Brexit negotiations.

“This provides infuriating confirmation, which means the Irish fishing industry must now pay the price for our Minister’s opting to tow the Brussels line in the Brexit negotiations.

“The shocking and utter lack of engagement and dialogue with the EU side, on behalf of the Irish fisheries sector, by Minister Charlie Mc McConalogue, in the months leading up to the Brexit deal is now glaringly obvious. In fact, at his first meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 21st September 2020 – the Minister failed to raise the Irish sectors pre-Brexit concerns.

“At his second meeting, since becoming Minister, on the 19th & 20th October 2020, he again failed to table or raise a discussion on the Brexit fisheries implications for Ireland. Instead, he chose to engage in a rather meaningless three-way bilateral meeting with Fisheries Ministers from France, Denmark and the Netherlands.

“Yet again, at his third EU fisheries meeting on the 16th November 2020, no fisheries items whatsoever were raised. One would be forgiven for wondering what was being discussed at such fisheries meetings.

“Further meetings attended by the Minister on 27th November on the 15th/16th December, where the Brexit fisheries element of negotiations were discussed, point to the Minister acting as a protector of European quota interests, rather than as protector of the Irish share of quota. All in all, this new information serves to illustrate, the complete blindness to which the Minister entrusted the EU negotiators with.

“It also clearly demonstrates that the Minister and the government strategically and deliberately chose not to stand up for Irish fishing interests, instead they sought praise from the Brussels elites.

“Sadly, at a time when Irish fishermen were depending solely on the Irish government to protect their interests – it did not occur.

“In an overall context, data from Dublin City University estimates Ireland’s share of total fish catch in the Irish maritime zone is at only 20 per cent. This means that the other 80 per cent are caught by foreign vessels. The Brexit fisheries deal means that Irish vessels are hit with massive quota reductions in neighbouring UK waters also, while other EU countries got sweet deals.

“Despite the fact that foreign vessels continue to extract 80 per cent of the fish from Irish waters, we now have a Minister who is hell bent on forging ahead with a wide-scale decommission of the Irish fleet, dressed up as some sort of review process. All the while, foreign vessels would be allowed to continue fishing in our waters.

“It is no wonder Irish fishing and coastal communities rightly feel let down by this government. The sector was only seeking a fairer distribution of quota – nothing more – nothing less. They were betrayed in that request. The government should have made the decision to adopt a much tougher stand during the Brexit negotiations.

“The Taoiseach today in the Dáil, failed miserably to clarify why he and his Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine chose to let the Irish fishery sector down. This arrogant and aloof attitude cannot be tolerated as it is destroying the livelihoods of our fishermen and women, while also destroying coastal communities.

“The only solution being offered by the government is a public relation exercise dressed up as a pathetic review after the fact. This review will have one long term objective – that is to decommission a large volume of Irish vessels.

“As a TD who has consistently stood shoulder to shoulder with our fishing industry, I will not be accepting this hoodwinking approach. I will continue to fight every day for our fishermen.

“Therefore, I am again now calling on the Taoiseach and his Minister to go back to Brussels and seek a greater share of the quota for Irish vessels (currently 20 per cent) in the Irish maritime zone, in order to make up for the mess created by their own inaction.

“Failure by the government to take this course will result in a decommissioned Irish fleet, with almost all fish in Irish waters being caught by foreign vessels, due to lazy policies by a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach and his Minister with the support of Fine Gael and the Greens,” concluded Deputy Collins.

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