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Basic rights - a thing of the past?

An editorial comment by Cormac Burke, Chairman of the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA)


The almost dismissive nature of Minister Charlie McConalogue during this week’s reasonable requests from TDs for consideration on a number of proposed amendments to the Sea Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021 highlights the problems that the Irish fishing industry has on a national level.

So often we believe that our industry is oppressed by the federal ruling of an EU Fisheries Commission that is clearly infiltrated by high finance operators from large fishing nation powerhouses – and this has, more often than not, proven to be the case.

But, even knowing that this situation exists, when one observes that there is an element of caution on the part of the Commission when dealing with EU Member States such as Spain and France [as the governments of these nations will strongly defend their fishermen] but this is certainly not the case with Ireland and leaves us wondering why?

Why is Ireland the whipping boy when it comes to unfair EU quota allocations in its own waters?

Why is Ireland willing to penalise its own fishermen (even moreso with the passing of the latest Bill into legislation), and stand by and allow demersal vessels of other nations land in Irish ports almost completely unchecked and unmonitored? - and we are told that everything must be up to ‘EU standards’, and yet Ireland’s monitoring of Irish pelagic, demersal and inshore vessels’ landings by far surpasses any system employed elsewhere in Europe.

And, worst of all, why is the Irish Government the only one in the entire EU that works AGAINST its national fishing community instead of WITH it?

During their well-founded pleas for some justice in amendments to the recent Sea Fisheries Bill 2021, TDs Michael Collins, Padraig MacLoughlainn and Richard O’Donoghue made fair and reasonable requests which were all dismissed out of hand by the Minister – but it was TD Richard O’Donoghue who perhaps put it best when he posed the direct question to Mr McConalogue as to how could he, a politician voted into power by promising his electorate in the strong fishing county of Donegal, that he would bring about ‘fair play’ in the administration of this industry – but once elevated to the highest political position in this sector, became the ‘enemy of the people’.

O’Donoghue was pulled up for questioning Charlie McConalogue’s morals but I believe he was entirely correct in asking how does this man sleep at night knowing that he has totally reneged on everything he promised those who voted him into Government.

All Irish citizens have had a lifetime of experiencing the party candidate calling to your door at election time and promising everything just to get your vote, and then you never hear from them again – that’s par for the course and something everyone is unsurprised at but this has been something far beyond that.

To be clear, when McConalogue was running for election some years ago he was aware, as we all are, that a root and branch review of the entire structure of the Department of Marine, of its operations and of the civil servants within, of the past 25 years, was needed – and indeed it was on this (and other fishery-related) promises that he won the votes in an important fisheries-based county.

As with certain other elected politicians, one could cut him some slack if it was just a case being inept, of trying but not being able to achieve his aims due to red tape or being somehow politically obstructed from doing so – but no, this man has made no secret of the fact that he has gone out of his way to: (a) completely enable the anti industry civil servants in his Department to rule the fishing industry with an iron fist and, (b) to preside over the criminalisation of fishermen and the gradual but strategic decimation of the entire culture and tradition of Irish commercial fishing.

The general opinion is that this man will have some serious problems in gaining re-election – and that remains to be seen, but that day is still some way off and the worry right now must be how much more damage, by allowing his Dept. officials to run the industry into the ground, will he (and they) have done in the months and possible years that lie ahead?

As pressure increases on this Government due to massive levels of discontent in the fishing and farming sectors of rural Ireland, the next step is likely to be a cabinet reshuffle at some point – but will it make the slightest bit of difference who is the fisheries and/or agriculture minister when the power continues to lie in the hands of the civil servants (aka ‘the permanent government’)?

Until this underground network is rooted out and re-established as being employed to work FOR the people and not the other way around then we are unlikely to see a fair administration of the Irish fishing industry and open support from any Irish government.

PHOTO: Minister McConalogue barely raised his head once to acknowledge any of the TDs making proposals for amendments to the latest Sea Fisheries Bill

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