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An industry with no one at the wheel

Glancing through the latest copy of Marine Times newspaper I noticed the recurring theme throughout - the number of industry voices complaining of a lack of ‘joined up thinking’ in the political and civil service management of the Irish fishing industry.

The most noticeable of the points made was Tom MacSweeney’s shocking report that the biggest reform of marine governance in the history of this State does not include the Marine Department.

In Tom’s own words “how is it that the Government of an island nation, dependent on the marine, gives responsibility for maritime development to the Department with the worst reputation for failure in the effort to resolve the major national problem on land - housing?”

What does national maritime development off the Irish coast have to do with the Department for Housing?

So why is this obvious dilution of the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM) happening, and curiously, if not suspiciously, it appears that the answer lies in that the Department of Housing will now have full control over offshore and foreshore licensing.

A chart of Ireland’s maritime agency issued by the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) shows that a substantial sea area will now come under full control of the Department of Housing  - and, as also reported by Marine Times, the Chairman of MARA is one Mark Mellett who has previously predicted that there will be 2,500 wind turbines on the south, west and east coasts.

Worryingly for this industry, according to Marine Times, not one single TD in Dáil Éireann has thus far challenged or even questioned this move.


Once upon a time this nation had a Department for Fisheries - later thrown in or just tagged on as an afterthought with other Departments such as Communications (under Minister Noel Dempsey) - to where we are now under the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM) - - but not content with shrinking the importance of this department to the industry and the coastal communities, our Government is now quietly diluting the control of the marine and maritime sector itself by giving one of the most important parts within this realm to, unbelievably, the Department of Housing who have already proudly issued a statement to say that they “would have a key role to play in the streamlined consenting system for the maritime area”.

But let’s call a spade a spade here - this is clearly all about licensing offshore wind farms and there has been and continues to be obvious resistance within the fishing industry nationwide, so political thought is let’s just move the wind farm licensing issue completely out of the marine department - out of their hands, out of their power, and out of the line of debate from the fishing industry.

This stunt and other recent ones such as the Heritage Department setting forward proposals for a special protection area (SPA) in the Irish Sea without Government even having the manners to inform, never mind discuss, the plans with the industry producer organisations first, is what makes a complete farce of these politicians’ press statements where they always claim to have had “constructive talks” with the industry.

It’s clear that no sooner are they finished a meeting with the industry, they’re getting ready to stab them in the back once again.

Ask any fisherman in any part of Ireland and they’ll tell you that there is NOTHING genuinely constructive happening in the fishing industry and it is clear to see that the word ‘destructive’ would be a far more suitable term to use when talking about the progress, or lack thereof, that is being made in this sector.

Leo Varadkar, and to some extent Charlie McConalogue, must learn that leadership is not about ability - it is about responsibility….

…. the responsibility to support and defend Irish people in the Irish marine sector, the responsibility to stand by your promises made during election time and, as Irish citizens themselves, the responsibility not to sell out Irish marine resources to get the benefit of a quick buck or political kudos but in doing so sacrifice generations of fishermen, their families and entire coastal communities.

Never mind the political chess games in moving things around and manoeuvring situations to make political gains - - shouldn’t these people be more concerned that they are flushing Ireland’s fishing industry down the pan while the rest of Europe is developing and strengthening theirs?

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