Shoulder to shoulder in Dublin
As a service business owner, based in Killybegs, I want to offer my support and my perspective on the challenges faced by the fishing industry, fisher people and the service industries that work in support of eachother here, and in all coastal towns around the country.
Here in Killybegs, we have teams of highly skilled companies and personnel recognised globally for their skills in ship building and marine repairs.
Unfortunately for these companies, the lack of investment in this harbour, has restricted them reaching their potential and, as a knock-on effect, companies like mine and many others suffer.
The ripples are felt through all businesses such as boat supplies, product handling, refrigeration companies, hydraulic engineering, right down to our local shops.
The loss of quota over the years, and the recent revelations of the Irish fleet only being allowed to fish 15% of our own waters, has wounded fishing communities all over Ireland.
The fishing tradition on this island is being damned by illogical decision making.
The frustration felt by myself and others centres on the foreign boats legally allowed to fish in our waters - waters that we are limited to.
Not to mention other fish species that are in abundance, that we have not been awarded a quota for.
The owners that have invested heavily over the years in safer, more economical trawlers now sit with their hands tied, putting trust in the government officials that have failed them time and time again.
The dysfunctional government agency, SFPA, are inventing and enforcing barriers daily.
They are driving businesses and workers out with illogical and baseless decision making.
This has been proven by numerous independent audits that have deemed them not fit for purpose but still they remain the enforcement agency.
The SFPA was set up for fish protection, but are only succeeding in business prevention.
Frustration in the coastal communities stem from individuals working as hard as they can to make an income within the narrow provisions in place, and overnight these provisions become further restricting.
Nobody is breaking the rules but no matter what rules are followed, new ones are invented to prevent the flow and development of business.
Killybegs has an abundance of resources in the form of skilled personnel, the deep water quay, a long tradition of ship building and repairs, and the ambition to be the major player in facilitating ships of all sizes.
Underinvestment has hindered this ambition also in that our own larger boats have to go to foreign ports for dry dock repairs only because Killybegs has an underrated syncrolift.
Harbour fees for ships using the port along with dry dock fees alone are enough to see that a steady income be afforded to payback potential investment for the government parties involved – but seeing as they are comfortable sending €120bn worth of Irish fish abroad, it appears as though fiscal responsibility is low on the government’s list of priorities, as is logic.
Underinvestment paired with misinformed and frankly lazy decision making has pulled the rug out from communities on the coast.
We need to band together, and demand a minister for fisheries that understands our frustrations today and will work with us to secure all our futures.
I call on all service businesses throughout Ireland to show up in Dublin this Wednesday in support of your business and the fishing industry in general.
I am looking forward to meeting people and standing shoulder to shoulder (2 metres apart) in demand for our right to support ourselves, our families and our communities.
Desmond O Connor