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A voice in Europe


The Irish fishing industry needs all the support it can get

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- Cormac Burke reports from Leinster House.

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Perhaps Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of a period of penance and spiritual reconciliation, was a fitting day to be discussing the current state of the Irish fishing industry - although many would rightly say that it feels like Ireland has been doing penance for the last 25 years and that surely the lean times must come to an end soon and that one day the term ‘level playing field’ will actually mean something to Irish fishermen in the context of the EU fisheries regime.


Colm Markey MEP took time from his busy schedule this week to meet with the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA) and discuss the recent Norway/EU blue whiting talks as well as various other issues affecting the industry now and going forward.


“We’ve worked hard as we sought to reverse the reputation of the Irish fishing industry within the EU.


“This has been built in the recent past and Ireland is finally winning the confidence of those at EU Commission level,” he said, adding that much of this was down to the Irish fishing industry having a “more credible” representation these days.


No stranger to the affairs of agricultural and marine issues in rural Ireland, Louthman Colm Markey begun his term in Europe around two and a half years ago and almost immediately got himself on the Fisheries Committee.


His work on this Committee has involved all of the issues that have faced Ireland in the past few years, from the fallout of BREXIT to the controversial Control Plan and the SFPA’s insistence on pier side weighing.


His observations from that time is that the Irish fishing industry did have some representation in Europe but that it did not have an organised and united voice at home.


“However, this previous vacuum of communication has been replaced with recognition at EU Commission level that Ireland now has very capable representation who are interested in finding genuine solutions to various problems.


“This representation, and in particular Brendan Byrne (IFPEA) and Aodh O’Donnell (IFPO), have been a breath of fresh air and has changed the dynamic,” he said.


“I don’t believe that the Norway/EU blue whiting talks are dead and gone and its a possibility that these negotiations may come around again at some point but, as previously stated, I support Brendan and Aodh in their firm belief that on this occasion ‘no deal was better than a bad deal’.”


If nothing else, it seems clear that Ireland has toughened it’s reputation in Europe and will no longer be seen as pushovers in the future with regard to quota negotiations of any species and refusing to be pushed into any deal that ultimately will mean that Ireland would lose more than it would gain.


While some have seen this as a kind of a victory for Ireland at EU level, Colm Markey added with a note of caution that many of Ireland’s problems continue to lie at home and not within the EU Commission:


“As has been clearly seen in the past history of the Irish fishing industry, this is a time of change and a time when new relationships between the industry and the authorities must be built and all points effecting the daily operation of this sector must be a two-way conversation involving genuine consultation with the industry,” he concluded.


Whatever way its viewed, its clear to see that, not just in relation to the blue whiting talks but for all industry negotiations going forward, that Ireland is now developing a team of intelligent, highly capable and respected negotiators who are genuinely attempting to make fair and just gains for the fishing industry here.


The recent unified stance taken in the blue whiting talks won the respect of the EU negotiators and for anyone in Ireland who thinks Norway backed away (either temporarily or permanently) of their own accord and not because of the obstructions they came up against is living in a much blinkered world and are being disingenuous to the strong united team of Irish politicians and industry representatives who are causing embarrassment to the old regime by showing them how its done….

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Photo caption: FG MEP Colm Markey met with IFSA Chairman Cormac Burke this week to discuss current affairs in the Irish fishing industry

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