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Perhaps a controversial notion but should the industry have sympathy for SFPA staff who are suffering under the same yolk as fishermen?

One cannot help but see the irony in the fact that the Irish marine department’s civil servants who, for so long have dominated the fishing industry through a ‘divide & conquer’ regime, are now themselves facing revolt from those they have directed to operate such a strategy.

Almost one year since previously threatening strike action (March 2021), SFPA (Sea Fisheries Protection Authority) staff have served notice of a 24-hour work stoppage this week (20thJanuary) with further strike action to follow (26th & 27th January).

On the face of it, few fishermen would have a grain of sympathy for anything that makes SFPA people unhappy – particularly given the fact that their [SFPA] previous talk of strike action was ‘reported’ by their management to the national media as being that the organisation was unhappy at not being allowed carry out more stringent monitoring restrictions of vessels and factories (and thereby giving the newspapers more ammunition to feed the general public the false assumption that all fishermen and fish factory owners are crooks), when this was not the real reason for the threatened action at all.

The near-strike of March 2021 by this body’s staff was as a result of their frustration that the promise that they would be consulted and have some input into the enforcement of the 47 points carried in a PWC report was not being adhered to and that the management were avoiding the ‘joint approach into implementing recommendations’ and were therefore alienating the 110 SFPA staff on the ground.

But the current planned strike action is perhaps more relevant to the fishing and processing industry as unofficial internal reports indicate that the issue on this occasion is that the SFPA staff feel that the organisation has lost any identity or independence as it is clearly being managed by the civil servants in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) – and the recent appointment of a senior DAFM official to the head of the SFPA has only poured oil on this already blazing fire.

The belief is that the DAFM has never allowed the SFPA to function as it would have liked to do – never been allowed attempt any kind of co-operative relationship with the fishing industry – with their every action being controlled and manipulated by the ‘silent hand’ which lies outside of the organisation but is heavily embedded within the DAFM.

And given the renowned track record of influence and control of this same ‘silent hand’ over the fishing industry it is clear under the current structure that the SFPA will never be allowed change and are doomed to failure.

in short, this has been a clear management strategy to have a fisheries monitoring authority that is not allowed to be proud of its fishing industry and therefore in return a fishing industry who are obviously not proud and have no respect for its monitoring authority.

This is a clear and obvious echo of exactly what has befallen the Irish fishing industry over the past twenty-five years and, although it feels strange to come out of the mouth of anyone who supports this industry, perhaps this latest attempted strike action by SFPA staff is to be welcomed as it would appear that they too are victims of the same strangling cancer that the Irish catching and processing sectors are struggling under.

The Chinese say “may you live in interesting times” and many will certainly find it interesting to hear any kind of industry support for a body often associated with a jackboot mentality but, despite the fact that certain SFPA staff will never be forgiven for perhaps enjoying their work a little too much and with some gleeful spitefulness over the years, the fact remains that, to quote an old saying, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend…’

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