Send in the clowns ….. don’t bother, they’re already here
An editorial comment - Cormac Burke, Chairman, IFSA
It’s been a quiet recent few weeks in the fishing industry as the various administrative departments were all enjoying their holidays while so many fishermen spent this time wondering how they are going to cope financially with nothing but doom and gloom and even fewer fishing opportunities on the horizon.
But in his first public appearance since the summer, our fisheries minister was quick to remind everyone how out of touch he still is with reality.
Turning up in Dingle yesterday, almost unannounced (in case he might actually meet some aggrieved fishermen with serious questions), Charlie McConalogue was churning out the usual patter from his well-worn script when he was challenged by a local small boat owner.
When asked a couple of awkward questions the Minister quickly lost his previous affable manner and enquired which fishing industry organisation did this Dingle fisherman belong to and, on hearing the answer “the biggest one - Cormac Burke at the IFSA” the Minister’s demeanour turned firstly to clear annoyance and then to sarcasm.
“I don’t know them. We’ll you’re the first man I ever met who’s in the IFSA,” he said with a sneer - to which the fisherman replied “well you’re the first politician I’ve ever met who doesn’t know who the IFSA is when it has literally thousands of supporters in the Irish fishing industry.”
Touché - and well played my Dingle friend. But my God what does this say about our marine minister who stubbornly continues to follow the advice of the inept civil servants and try to block out any group or person who dares to voice any criticism or indeed simply tries to speak the truth in broad daylight?
I’m guessing that I’m long since removed from Charlie’s Christmas card list but surely it’s only enforcing the belief by many that this Minister hasn’t a clue what he’s doing when he constantly tries to dismiss an organisation that is, at this point, almost as big in vessel members as the four main Producer Organisations combined, has the backing of fifty-odd fishing industry companies and the support of literally thousands of people in the fishing coastal communities.
And even the Producer Organisations who were never exactly ecstatic about the formation and subsequent success of the IFSA are diplomatic enough to recognise this body is a ‘voice’ for many in the industry.
Meanwhile, while one of Ireland’s fishing industry’s newspapers greatly supports and promotes this voice of the coastal communities, the other apparently shows its allegiance to the Minister and the Department by avoiding ever making any reference to one of the largest industry bodies in the country.
But, if nothing else, Mr McConalogue’s tactic of hiding from anyone who is critical of him and his department is in line with current Government policy of never facing up to the truth, no matter how many people are affected.
When 20 people out of 10,000 are infected then it’s a ‘pandemic’ but when 3,000 houses out of the 58,000 in Co. Donegal alone are falling down due to the Mica building block bug and their owners are crying out for help on national tv and newspapers, then let’s just ignore that.
As I’ve consistently said, the Minister should be aware that trying to deny the existence of the IFSA causes me personally no loss of sleep but every time he does this he is refusing to recognise calls for justice from a huge section of the Irish fishing and Seafood sectors as well as the inhabitants of the coastal communities - not a smart move when the time for a General Election looms ever nearer.
Does the Minister also believe that others who speak passionately in defence of this industry such as Brendan Byrne (IFPEA), Fr John Joe Duffy, Gregory Casey, Gerard Kelly, C.J. Gaffney, Padraig MacLochlainn (SF TD) and Michael Collins (IND TD) to name just a few) should also have their existence denied?
And so we continue our lives with a Minister who has repeatedly shown himself to be out of his depth; a civil servant-driven fisheries policy of never supporting this industry; and an inept monitoring & enforcement authority — send in the the clowns…. dont bother, they’re already here…