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Scheming schemes

More corruption behind the smoke and mirrors

With the final report from the Seafood Task Force now released it would appear that once again the ‘devil is in the detail’ and, yet again, the small print hides the fact that any minor benefit that the suffering Irish fishing industry is to receive from the EU BREXIT fund will in fact see a portion of this be paid for by the fishermen themselves!

On pages 70 & 71 (sub section 3) the Report states “The amount of aid for permanent cessation related to Brexit will be reduced by the amount of temporary cessation support and the amount of income loss support received by operators either from the BAR or from other funds in the period between 1 January 2021 and the date

of receiving the payment for the permanent cessation aid”.

If I am understanding this statement correctly, this implies that if a vessel owner who intends to take the vessel decommissioning option when it becomes available, he will face a deduction from the settlement figure in lieu of any monies earlier paid during the tie-up scheme…

For me this raises several questions, primarily that in most cases it has already been firmly voiced by the industry the decommissioning package will not even cover the existing loan / mortgage of the vessel, and this ‘hidden’ extra deduction will even further reduce the deal on offer.

The true and indisputable fact here is that these are two entirely different things.

The ‘tie-up’ scheme payment is compensation for loss of quota and income in the here and now - 2. the decommissioning scheme is for loss of income for the long term future I.e. next year and every year beyond.

To try and bundle these two things together is not only unfair, it is legally questionable to say the least considering that, interestingly, page 18 of the very same report makes clear definitions between ‘short term’ and ‘permanent’ supports and makes no attempt to muddy the waters as the later effort does:

Restructuring of the fleet has been considered by the Task Force in the context of short-term and longer-term measures. The Task Force acknowledges that there is an immediate need to implement support measures for the areas of the catching sector that have been directly impacted by the TCA cuts through short-term schemes (e.g. temporary cessation and liquidity aid). However, such schemes should be seen very much as transitioning to the new reality under the TCA with less quota available, which will require permanent restructuring through voluntary decommissioning and other initiatives described under the processing, CLLD and aquaculture chapters.”

Same old story

This is once again proof of the ongoing underlying theme that many in the Irish fishing industry hold true — if our marine civil servants worked as hard for this industry as they do against it then what an industry we would have…

In this case, the EU Commission has made it very clear that how the BAR fund for Ireland is administered is entirely out of their hands and it is up to the Irish Government how they wish to distribute this money ‘effectively’ to compensate the Irish fishing industry.

If BIM, under instruction from civil servants in the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM), are to be the vehicle from which the tie-up and decommissioning schemes are to be delivered then is it not beholden on them to CLEARLY STATE at the top of applications that the criteria for people opting for decommissioning will be that they will be forced to refund the tie-up scheme payments?

Similarly, should BIM not be highlighting small print that is contained in one of its other grant applications that appears to hint that any vessel in receipt of any type of ‘support’ funds (Such as the tie-up scheme) will be ordered to repay this money if that vessel receives any penalty points and, as we sadly all know only too well, it is a simple matter that a vessel can be given points for almost anything these days should the authorities wish.

This regulation that owners of vessels who choose to decommission must repay monies received earlier in the year for tie-up support comes in the form of the Task Force report, and therefore from the DAFM, and so, why should we be surprised that even in forcing people out of business, the final twisting of the knife has to be carried out to cause maximum suffering…

To summarise, this proposed regulation is a case of “We’ll give you a loan to buy your own coffin and then we’ll take the cost of it out of your estate - and yes, that includes the cost of the final nail in the coffin…”

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