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A new low for the Irish fishing industry

A shocking story reported to the IFSA from the reliable source of a well-known local Killybegs fisherman, claims that on Friday last, the Agriculture, Food & Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue verbally abused the fisherman in public on the Main Street of the town.

Driving by and spotting McConalogue outside the town’s Centra supermarket, the fisherman pulled up, lowered his window and told the Minister he was not welcome in Killybegs, to which the Minister, carefully noting that there was no one else within earshot (but failing to notice possible CCTV recording by nearby businesses), immediately replied using a foul-mouthed tirade, reportedly “f*ck off you pr*ck”!

Taken aback at the sudden and abusive response (which the offended party would be within his rights to seek legal advice over) but remaining undeterred, the fisherman said “I’m serious Charlie - with the damage you’ve done to this industry and to this town, you are certainly not welcome here, nor probably at any other fishing port in Ireland” at which point the Minister was joined by a well-known local Fianna Fáil party member who used even stronger language in telling the fisherman to ‘be on his way’.

Is this what it’s come to? Has our marine minister’s delusions actually reached a point where he thinks he can just come into a fishing port and show disgraceful contempt for the same people, some of whom have lost their boats, or their jobs on boats, and in factories, and others who have seen their incomes slashed by more than 40% during his tenure in office whilst non EU vessels continue increase their share of their bonanza in Irish-owned waters.

Not only has this industry suffered for several years the arrogance of a minister who has clearly shown the signs of the brainwashing from the old regime at the Department of Marine in his anti fishing industry stance on many issues whilst all the time coming out in the media in a delusional manner claiming that “all is well but times are tough for everyone” but now anyone who voices dissent is told in an unmannerly fashion to just shut up and clear off.

McConalogue has history in this regard - as seen some time ago when he seemed to think it would be amusing to come into the ‘lion’s den’ as he arrogantly called a meeting in Killybegs where he knew there would be many angry fishermen in attendance (although the industry representative organisations boycotted the meeting) and he then proceeded to talk about housing grants (a topic which isn’t even in his brief of agriculture, food & marine) and when the first voice of complaint raised the topic of the crisis that the fishing industry is in under his term in office he swiftly replied with a sarcastic smirk “if you dont like what you’re hearing then you’re free to leave the room” - - at which point three quarters of the 100-odd people in attendance exited the meeting in frustration and annoyance.

For far too long the people in this industry have remained quiet while allowing this minister to get away with repeatedly telling the media that: (a) he set up a task force group that “acted on the recommendations of the fishing industry representatives” which is largely untrue as the fishing industry only had a minority vote on the task force and therefore did not have the power to vote with any real meaning on important issues; (b) that he fights “tooth and nail” to defend the Irish fishing industry in various EU negotiations, a statement that the industry knows to be entirely false and the current state of the industry within the EU context bears out this fact; and (c) that he “works closely” with the fishing industry organisations when in fact he is barely on speaking terms with several of these groups - so much so that some industry organisations had to take it upon themselves recently to travel to meet with the EU Commission to find out what the situation was with regards the possible Icelandic access to Irish waters because their own Irish marine minister refused to discuss the situation with them.

McConaglogue’s political party are running candidates in both the local and European elections in the next few weeks and if the strategy is touting around a politician who, it should be remembered, didn’t even reach the required quota of votes to be elected but got in on the ‘last man standing’ rule and was subsequently the third choice for DAFM minister, and who has such an incredibly disrespectful attitude towards the people in the sector that he is supposed to be working for, to try to gain favour amongst local voters then God help those candidates when the angry and insulted fishing industry electorate cast their votes!

As the grip of non Irish nations fishing in Irish waters tightens whilst Irish boats get less and less quota every year, surely it is high time for our Opposition Party politicians to stop the talking and finally call for a vote of no confidence in this minister who is blatantly working against the fishing industry rather than for it - and doing so with the unbelievable arrogance of a man who seems to think that he’s ‘untouchable’.

Given that every time the opposition parties try to push a vote through the Dáil and the Coalition parties close ranks to suffocate any such attempt to change the status quo, then at the very least the citizens of this country are entitled to ask Fianna Fáil, Fianna Gael and the Green Party for a public declaration that they either support or disagree with McConalogue’s dismal management of the Irish fishing and farming industries so that the electorate will know where they stand as we enter local, European and, in the not too distant future, General elections.

And a non response from these parties on this matter can be considered as support for the apparently out-of-control minister.

After a clear-out of the old guard of anti industry marine civil servants (and one or two others since then), this ministerial replacement is the next of many changes that the Irish fishing industry urgently needs if there is to be any chance of the critical salvaging of what remains of this crumbling sector - - an industry that’s on its knees largely due to years of Irish Government neglect and lack of support for Irish coastal communities at EU level while the rest of the European Union nations’ governments are investing, adapting and developing their fishing sectors for a long term sustainable future.

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