Deliver us from evil
In this proud maritime nation on the periphery of Western Europe, Ireland holds possession of some of the richest waters in the world, waters that are the envy of every fishing nation in the world.
This nation’s fishermen work in a wide range of fisheries - sustainably exploiting the riches on their doorstep in a multitude of methods - from pelagic and midwater fishing for herring, mackerel, scad, blue whiting and sprat, to mid range demersal trawling for the healthy stocks of whitefish species, to the rural small boat inshore operators who combine having a few sheep on the hill with pot fisheries for crab and lobster along with the lucrative seasonal wild salmon fishery, as well as the inland fishing men who pursue a very active industry in freshwater eels.
These many fisheries provide vital employment for many thousands of people and the local economies of scores of rural coastal communities nationwide in fish factories, net companies, electronics businesses, engineering firms and vessel building & repair yards.
More than this, this sector and its way of life contributes to and keeps alive a marine heritage and a traditional maritime fabric that has been woven in this small country for centuries.
Ireland’s fishermen are internationally recognised as being not just hard workers but also as some of the most innovative and ‘savvy’ operators in the business, and these men are backed with a steady stream of second generation sons and daughters only too keen to follow their parents into this exciting vibrant industry that holds a promising future for those willing to work…
Every word of the above description of the Irish fishing industry is true - but only true if I had written this in the early 1970s at a time when the people of this industry still had a future, still had hope, and still had young people who were told that all they had to do was believe and that they would achieve.
And now, summarising the events of the following fifty years, Ireland gave up its sovereignty and its rights over its own waters, allowed successive Governments to drive the gradual dismantling of all sectors of the fishing industry - from halting the wild salmon fishery and closing inshore eel fishing to the eventual putting out of business of many demersal fishermen with the country now facing (its third) decommissioning scheme in 2023 - and of course enabling the establishment of an unofficial marine police force with an apparent mandate to undertake some sort of fishing industry ‘ethnic cleansing’ in an almost Black & Tans regime.
The sad irony of an Irish fleet decommissioning scheme is that it is being justified by a need to reduce the number of Irish vessels to fit the small Irish quota remaining after BREXIT - without mentioning the fact that this remaining quota represents only the 18% of quota that Ireland is allowed catch in Irish waters while the other 82% in OUR waters has been allocated to the fishing fleets of Spain, France, Belgium, Holland and many others who the EU would have us believe have suffered as much as Ireland in the outcome of BREXIT.
Meanwhile Ireland’s highly lucrative pelagic sector, once the world leaders in skill and innovation, stands on the brink as one quota cut after another leaves family businesses with investments of millions of euros in this industry clinging on in the desperate hope that at some point the ever-decreasing circle that Ireland is in will come to an end.
For example, how have we arrived at a point where ONE pelagic company in Holland has a bigger turnover than the entire pelagic business of all of Ireland?
The blame game
We, the people of this industry, have spent much energy over the years laying blame at the doors of others - directing our displeasure at the EU Commission and their lies of “a level playing field”, the BREXIT deal and how Ireland was shafted while our own political leaders didn’t even raise a whimper of defence, and at the civil servants who rightly deserve our anger for their blatant and apparently intentional mismanagement of the Irish fishing sector over the years.
But while we all complain about how unfair it all is, every election, General & Local, we go to the polls and put government after government into power and WE give them mandate to continue to treat our fishing industry as the poor relation of Irish commerce instead of demanding that they show pride in the most important marine tradition that any island nation can hold.
In my 62 years I cannot recall one single Government who could be remembered as one who even supported, never mind fought, for Ireland’s fishing industry, and if one asks any fishermen about the different marine ministers over the years and decades, they can only compare them in terms of ‘not too bad’ to ‘bloody useless’ but not one of them will say “ah he was great for the fishing industry”…
Even the meek and disgraceful surrender of Ireland’s age-old right to Rockall in recent years was met with disgust by this industry but no real anger, at least no anger that would make a Foreign Affairs and a Marine Minister lose a night’s sleep over.
And before any ex (or present) marine minister takes offence, the simple response is “what did you ever do during your term in office to stop the marine civil servants running riot over this industry? When did you once overrule a marine civil servant’s decision?”
And now as we face into another year, this time its not enough for us to just hope once again that Ireland gets some fair play - only to endure a repeat of disappointment but not surprise.
This time the Irish fishing industry stands at death’s door and, without the full support of a GENUINE IRISH Government, our EU ‘partners’ are more than happy to push us through that door.
No more ministers who know nothing about the fishing industry trying to tell fishermen what they need, no more bullshit about task forces, tie-up and decommissioning schemes, and CFP review groups - no more lip service from politicians who are not held to account for their actions (or lack thereof) - no more representing the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM) to the fishing industry but instead be representing the fishing industry to the DAFM - - and, most importantly, no more denying and ignoring the voices of the people just because you dont like to hear the truth.
The people in today’s fishing industry need to be hearing from THIS Government, and those who are keen to be the future leaders of this nation, about the future they foresee for this industry, what support they are willing to show Irish fishermen when they sit down at EU negotiations, and how they intend to grow this sector rather than how they are going to offer people ‘diversity’ into other sectors — our fishermen don’t want to be forced out of their livelihoods and into other careers and then have to stand by and watch the fishermen of other EU nations make their harvest in Irish waters.
Ireland DEMANDS from its Government a new strategy for its fishing sector and not be abandoned to be left writing its epitaph…