Promote the problem - be it upwards, sideward or somewhere out of the way - and so it has come to pass in Ireland that this is the traditional way of getting rid of the problem
It goes to show that you can plaster the wall with all the academic prizes on earth, but if you don’t have the knowledge or skill set to lead your team then qualifications count for nothing.
To say that two major costly consultation reports of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) organisation is leaving Ireland, its fishing industry and all of its employees in a state of chaos is putting it mildly.
But how did it come to this? And why did the existence SFPA come about?
Many of you may not recall that the Dutch pelagic industry was once in the same position that Ireland now finds itself -- the EU audit control team found that they (the Dutch) had claimed three times the amount of export subsidy from the EU in relation to their quotas and this led to ministers losing their jobs and the Dutch industry setting up its current factory fleet away from RSW and fresh landing.
Maybe it’s time for Ireland to look this way because our politicians have no interest in fishing, as shown time and time again in all negations, cabinet appointments and budgets.
In the early noughties, Joe O’Toole once described negotiations with the then government on behalf of his teacher union as “going to a bank machine” as the government of the day was flying high, cash was king and problems were bought off and quangos were the order of the day.
Politicians did not want to know - and so, with innuendo, begrudgery and allegations about overlanding and quotas, the civil servants were given a clear run from the “yes Minister” series to set up a quango and “you minister will no longer have to answer questions, this quango will bear the blunt of fishermen’s anger and we civil servants will have no blame”.
And so it came to pass that the SFPA was born -- but wait, no point in having the same old crowd running it, so they militarised it, as in the story Soldier Blue, “it’s not for you to reason why but for you to do and die” - and all of these ex and current Naval Officers who were early retired and pensioned off, were placed in all positions of management within this SFPA.
Their lack of knowledge and skill sets for seafood hygiene, production, shellfish, food safety, surveillance etc. did not seem to matter as they would obey and achieve the end result and enforce the EU and Irish rules at whatever cost.
All went well for a while, until the plebs working out in the field of wet cold piers began to realise that the two-income management ex-naval personnel were on a good thing, working from Carrigaline /Clonakilty, issuing orders by day and home in their beds every night (whilst good travel & subsistence expenses on their management visits to the outposts.
So, as an organisation had become very much a “them and us” scenario -- the permanent board trio were running here there and everywhere, and still could not see the wood from the trees and could not go back to their permanent appointed civil servants and say “this quango is a failure and we have failed”.
And now today the fishing industry suffering the brunt of this incompetence while the EU and the media believe this chaos and the SFPA’s board answer to its external expensive consultations, to hire an ex-runner to motivate the staff.
That should make them feel great on a cold wet weighbridge in Killybegs, Castletownbere or Dingle on a winter’s night, saying to yourself “is feidir llom” while your naval and management people are safe and sound being gym bunnies in Clonakilty and Carrigaline.
The same civil servants are still in power now but will they will take the opportunity to put in place an industry knowledge board in charge of the SFPA and work with the industry?
Or will it more likely be another boot on the neck of the fishermen?