The word ‘respect’ seems to be a thing of the past when it comes to the Irish fishing industry and how it is viewed by our own Government.
Everyone in every sector of the commercial marine industry, from Malin to Mizen and from Louth to Mayo, can attest to the rapid decimation of the fishing industry which, in just one generation, has seen a profitable way of life and vibrant coastal regions become shadows of their former selves and sadly, it appears that this trend is set to continue in its downward spiral.
As people who have given their entire lives to the fishing industry in one form or another (of which I include myself) we could never have envisaged, just 40-odd years ago, that things would ever come to the sorry state they are in now.
But while many will blame the EU Fisheries Commission (with good cause) for Ireland’s current problems and lack of quota, the fact of the matter is that the defence and support of any Irish industry and way of life begins at home and why would any other EU Member State nation have respect for the plight of Irish fishermen when Ireland’s own Government clearly show that have no respect for their own?
It has become obvious over the past few elections that political parties have adopted a policy of ‘looking after’ the urban voters - win the seats in the cities and take their chances in the rural regions as winning or losing the odd electoral seat is neither here nor there when it comes to the final tally count.
This is evident with the lack of support, indeed almost an attack, on the Irish rural way of life in the past decade alone – slowly wind down the fishing tradition in coastal regions, hit the small crofter farmers, hike up taxes wherever possible, pander to Green Party clowns who want country folk to stop selling turf while they themselves are tucked up in nice urban homes with oil-fired central heating letting off far more emissions that any cottage turf fire ever would.
Once upon a time, even after Ireland joined the EEC, the only thing that Irish fishermen had to worry about was the weather forecast and the price for their catches – nowadays its finding a way of going to sea without breaking some rule or other, its about trying to squeeze a living out of a miserly quota while other nations enjoy a bonanza in Irish waters, its about worrying about where the money is going to come from to keep the vessel in good working order so it can pass its next Code of Practice – on a vessel that will probably be scrapped whenever a decommissioning scheme comes in.
At the next election, the FF, FG or Green politician who comes to your door and says he “cares about the coastal communities” should be chased – every single one of them over the past 40 years has said that and then, once elected, allowed themselves be ruled by the marine civil servants who have willingly been given ‘carte blanche’ by successive governments to continue to work against, and not for, this industry and those who make a living from it.
Fishermen are proud people and come from proud communities – from the man fishing pots in his small punt right up to the owners of fleets of vessels - every one of them are proud of what they and their families have achieved – until now when the only things that are increasing are the numbers of wind farm applications, the numbers of anti fishing legislations, the numbers of fishery officers – and all the while the numbers of fishermen, vessels and industry related employers continues to dwindle under the reign of an anti fishing, anti coastal regions government and civil service department.
Even the poorly written scripts supplied to and read out by marine ministers in recent years describes the people of this industry by using the Americanism, politically correct term of “fishers” – a phrase that greatly irritates fishermen (and women) to the point of it being an insult and is never used by anyone other than marine department and BIM press releases who, if one looks at the evolution of media in this industry over the past decade, will note that the term ‘fishing industry’ has become a dirty term and has been replaced with ‘seafood sector’ as that somehow sounds sexier for the people reading and writing such reports for Government – people who generally know nothing about the real facts of the Irish fishing industry.
And so, before we seek some justice from the EU (which we undoubtedly deserve), we should be demanding that our own political leaders stop allowing themselves be led by the nose by the marine civil servants and start showing some respect to Ireland’s fishermen, Ireland’s fishing industry, and Ireland’s rural coastal regions’ populations.
Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance