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A peaceful demonstration, but a warning shot for Government

The well supported peaceful demonstration at the quays in Cork City yesterday (May 26th) might not exactly have been the militant action that many in the Irish fishing industry would have wanted but the event organisers and the fishermen of Co. Cork certainly achieved their aim of bringing the story of the current crisis into the public eye.

As they snaked their way up the River Lee to Cork City centre, over 60 fishing vessels of all sizes tied up to the quays were greeted by the hundreds of fishing industry people and their families who had come, not just from around the county, but nationwide (including as far away as Donegal) to offer their support for this important demonstration.

A well-organised event c-ordinated by the IS&WFPO, with full adherence to Covid public guidelines and carried out in a correct manner, the fishing industry was well supported by members of the public as well as organisation representatives and various TDs – and in particular Michael Collins Independent TD who gave a powerful and rousing speech that this is an industry that is being completely neglected and sold out to the EU by this Government.

Some might ask if such a ‘peaceful’ show would actually achieve anything of substance but, as a witness myself, I can confirm that seeing so many fishermen, skippers and industry organisations being interviewed by many different radio stations and even just having the chance to explain the crisis to members of people has definitely helped to gain sympathy for this sector from the general public.

While the often anti-industry newspapers such as The Times and Examiner at least reported on the demonstration and gave the facts why it was taking place, national broadcaster RTE disappointed once again by avoiding mentioning anything that might be seen as anti-Government and gave the fact that up to 1,000 people had gathered in a fishing industry protest in Ireland’s second capital less than two minutes of coverage in their very last News item just before the Sports section – this speaks volumes of the fact that our supposed unbiased broadcaster continues to ignore the plight of Ireland’s coastal regions and the fishing sector upon which these regions depend.

Getting the word ‘out there’

We all know what a complicated industry this is to try to explain to the general public, and so the messages displayed yesterday were clear and to the point.

But the one that hit home best with the public was the statement that “Ireland is currently only allowed 15% of the fish quota in Irish waters” – a fact that left the public in genuine shock and, it must be said, in some anger.

The fishing industry in Co. Cork is to be applauded for taking this first step, in such a strong but peaceful effort to highlight the state of affairs to the public and in openly presenting a list of demands to the Taoiseach’s office.

And now this first step has been taken in a responsible and professional manner, if and when a larger national protest takes place in Dublin Port, this Government, who by the way didn’t send a single official representative to meet the fishermen yesterday, cannot say they weren’t warned.

An industry that has for a long time recognised that a regime of ‘divide & conquer’ by the Minister’s Dept of Marine was the biggest obstacle to progress is now seeing that unity is the way forward and if Taoiseach Michael Martin continues to dismiss the cries for fair play and equal rights for the fishing industry, I believe that we are only a matter of months away from a much larger and possibly less ‘friendly’ demonstration that may, as Michael Collins Ind TD put it, “bring the Capital to a halt”.

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