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Changing of the guard

If it feels like an eerie silence has fallen upon the fishing industry in recent weeks it may be due to an uncomfortable sensation of not knowing what lies ahead in the not-so-distant future.

As always, the approach of the annual EU Council on TACs in December is always a nervous time and Charlie McConalogue’s statement “welcoming” the outcome of last year’s negotiations did little to appease those in the Irish fishing industry who can’t help but feel being mired in the downward spiral that Ireland is in.

But at this moment in time there is also a sense that people are holding their breaths as it would appear that some major changes in some very senior positions in this industry are on the horizon.

According to sources, we are likely to see changes at ministerial level with current Social Welfare minister Heather Humphreys (FG TD Cavan-Monaghan) being mooted as a likely candidate, but not ruling out current Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney (FG TD Cork South Central) and even the possibility of Charlie McConalogue (FF TD Donegal North-East) being allowed remain in office for a further two years.

These options will surely find major differences of opinion within the industry for various different reasons but the word on the street is that many people feel that Simon Coveney has already been Marine Minister and McConalogue is the current man at the wheel and therefore a fresh face and someone not effected by previous mantra and apparent anti industry strategy that has existed for the past two decades may mean that Ms Humphreys would be the preferred choice.

But with the possible transition of a marine minister just after the EU Council on quotas and in the middle of proposals by Norway to the EU to be allowed catch ALL of their massive blue whiting quota in Irish waters, it is vital that someone doesn’t ‘drop the ball’ at this time and see Ireland yet again be the losers while someone in Dublin or Clonakilty fails to recognise that the blue whiting fishery is probably the last jewel remaining in our family crown and must be defended by all means possible.

Meanwhile, in what will probably be the smallest retirement party ever, both of the senior civil servant officials at the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM) are set to leave their posts in the coming months – and at this point I will resist the strong urge to launch into a detailed history of how these people seemed to have displayed an utter hatred for the fishing industry for over two decades – suffice to say that throughout the Irish fishing industry few tears will be shed on their departure.

Also, while it seems that there are no changes coming at the top of the SFPA regime, this body is currently at the centre of several investigations which are being driven by industry and will hopefully (and yet again) reveal the ineptitude and out-of-control nature of this so-called ‘competent authority’...

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