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SFPA ATTEMPTS ‘GAGGING ORDER’ AND LEGAL THREATS AGAINST IFSA



The following letter from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) was emailed to me today April 28th.


Please read the letter, and my reply afterwards, and feel free to comment (bearing in mind that abusive language and threatening violence cannot be accepted).


Cormac


********************************


Mr Cormac Burke

Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance

28th April 2022


Dear Mr Burke,


I am contacting you in relation to a post on the IFSA’s Facebook Group Page titled “Such A Sad Sight” on April 24th, 2022, and its associated comments placed by members of the group.


The SFPA is deeply concerned with the extremely negative comments accompanying this post, which are both offensive and seek to incite harmful action towards the Sea- Fisheries Protection Officers of the SFPA.


I want to bring to your attention a selection of the comments in response to the post which are extremely concerning.


The sample below does not account for the full series of comments, but we have highlighted these particular comments as the most concerning bearing in mind the worrying sentiment expressed towards SFPA Sea- Fisheries Protection Officers.


Sample as taken from the page and quoted as per published in response to the post “Such A Sad Sight”:


1. In response to the published post, a follower of the page asked, “How can we as a nation try stop this treatment. This is disgusting. We are far to quiet. Not getting us anywhere by being nice Time for a serious blockade now.”


2. A follower of the page then responded directly to this comment with “When someone leaves Killybegs carted into an ambulance on a stretcher”


3. “Time to throw a few of them in the dock like the old days”

4. “Throw them all into the Dock good for nothing arseholes”

5. “Shower of corrupt scumbags”

6. “This is absolutely shameful. The “employees” of this organisation should be boycotted and shunned by the local community”

7. “Name them expose them on here”

8. “Nothing to do with overzealous local officials not able to parse a regulation”

9. “This is just harassment plain and simple”.


The publication of comments of this nature has the very real potential to jeopardise the safety and wellbeing of SFPA officers who are conducting their work under the remit defined for the SFPA as set out under Irish and European legislation.


Owing to this commentary, officers – and their families - could now be subject to negative commentary, harassment, intimidation, either online or offline and potentially experience physical violence in the course of his/her duties.


As the administrator of the IFSA Facebook Group, we are requesting with immediate effect the removal of all offensive and threatening posts.


Moreover, we are seeking assurance from you, as the administrator of the IFSA Facebook Group that you both monitor and immediately remove any future abusive, threatening or harmful commentary published which jeopardizes the safety and wellbeing of SFPA Sea- Fisheries Protection Officers.


Please be advised that the SFPA will be reporting all threats of violence to the relevant authorities and reserves its right to pursue legal action on these matters.


We look forward to your response. Yours sincerely,

Eleanor Buckley

Communications Manager Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority


********************************************************************


Dear Ms Buckley,


I wish to confirm that I am in receipt of your somewhat bemusing letter.


You contacted me several months ago to request that I remove a photo of an SFPA officer that was posted with an article on the IFSA facebook group, citing that the public identification of this officer could lead to possible problems for that person later on - I considered your request to be a reasonable one and I removed said image.


However, that action by me has apparently been misconstrued by you and the SFPA into thinking you have some kind of authority over me, my organisation and its member and, on this occasion, I do not consider the SFPA’s request to be reasonable and, other than the Comments 2, 3 & 4 which I have now removed as they are defamatory and potentially encouraging physical action, I see no reason to remove any other articles or comments as, despite the SFPA thinking otherwise, the public of this country has freedom of speech since 1916.


I find your letter a poor attempt at intimidation of the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance, its members, and the thousands of people nationwide (both in and outside of the industry) who are observing the farcical mismanagement and clear persecution of the fishing sector by your organisation over time.


I believe the fishing industry-supporter TDs who sit on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture & Marine will be very interested when I send them your letter and also my reply - perhaps they will arrange to have this matter added to the agenda when the DAFM & SFPA are called before them to answer questions - a hearing which will take place in the near future I believe.


Some of the comments on the article to which you refer came from Michael Collins Ind TD and also IFPEA CEO Brendan Byrne - in which case should I also notify them of your attempted ‘gagging order’ ?


In relation to you seeking assurances that the IFSA facebook group should be monitored to the extent that any anti SFPA stories or comments should be filtered out then the only assurance I will provide is that I will continue to encourage, even moreso since your letter, that people should ‘share’ and are free to comment as Irish citizens, but that all such comments should neither incite violence nor use abusive language (which is Facebook protocol standards anyway).


I do find it amusing that the SFPA think that they can continue to adopt their own version of EU regulations and use it as a stick to try to bring this industry to its knees and put vessel and processing factory owners out of business but then get ‘sensitive’ when the industry responds in anger.


If its sympathy that the SFPA expect then I would advise showing a bit more respect and understanding to the people of the coastal communities of Ireland - and perhaps not bringing down the Northern Ireland Protocol would be a good place for the SFPA to start in repairing some of its recent ridiculous attempts against the fishing sector.


And finally, your letter mentions words such as “Harassment”, “Jeopardy” and “Intimidation” in reference to the feelings of SFPA officers - and yet these are the very words this industry use to describe how they are treated by the SFPA for many years.


Apparently harassment is ok when its coming from the SFPA but not going towards it…


And having made clear your dislike of intimidation towards the SFPA, you concluded your letter by stating that the SFPA “reserves the right to pursue legal action” - as if that piece of blatant intimidation is going to scare me or the IFSA members who will continue to fight for justice and will continue to seek a newly formed marine department and monitoring authority who are fit for purpose and who will work with this industry instead of against it.


Cormac Burke,

Chairman,

Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance.

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