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Sign of the times

Whilst Ireland’s fishing industry continues to battle for survival, it’s a sad state of affairs that we have brand new vessels being launched and, in what should be a time of celebration for all those involved, it is instead a time of grave concern for everyone as to what the future holds.

Launched last Friday in Killybegs, the fine new 27.38m polyvalent vessel Ella for the Atlantic Dawn Group, a replacement for the Star of Hope, is an example of the expertise that our own Irish companies hold, with this state-of-the-art vessel completely fitted and finished using mainly Irish companies, many of them based in Killybegs.

This is another side of the marine economy that our government is blind to – the millions of euros spent in production of this vessel – the work that it gave to so many Irish ancillary companies and to their staff who live and work in coastal communities.

Meanwhile, investment in the industry is not confined to the big industry operators as is seen with another new arrival to the Killybegs’ fleet with the arrival of Pat Johnston’s refurbished under 15m demersal trawler Little Molly – naturally not on the same financial scale as the bigger sector but nonetheless representing a sizeable local investment and again making an important contribution to the local economy.

Such occurrences are not confined to the Donegal port – all over the country there are individuals who have made heavy investment in the future of the fishing industry who now sit with fear in their hearts as to what will be left for them this time next year or in five years’ time.

It’s a sad indictment to know that while there are several new vessels on order at the moment, these were ordered two years ago and would, in all consciousness, these men have placed these new build orders if they knew of what lay ahead for the industry – a time when the government has turned its back, when the Department of Marine rules the industry and when the SFPA are allowed inflict uncontrolled sabotage across the nation.

An even sadder fact is that the maiden voyage for the handsome new Ella will be to Dublin port to join in the national protest against the mistreatment of the fishing industry.

Second class citizens

As we prepare for the national protest in Dublin on June 23rd, the obvious aim of this event is to try to bring at least a semblance of justice to an industry which, through no fault of its own, has been left with only 15% of the quota in its own waters, there is another wider picture that must be brought into consideration.

Why is it that the decent people who work in the fishing and seafood sectors are seen as somehow less important than all others?

Worse still, not just less important, but treated with distain by our own authorities who continue to perpetrate the vision of an industry filled with crooks and layabouts.

Even some of the wealthier fishing industry companies who create vast numbers of job on vessels and in factories are considered by this government and other bodies as ‘irrelevant’ than some companies of far lesser wealth in other business sectors.

And more shocking is the fact that the Irish banking system is another who believe fishermen to be ‘unreliable’ as recently seen when a young fisherman went for a mortgage and was told that it is now ‘bank policy’ that only 50% of his wages would be considered as genuine income and that he could then only be offered a mortgage equating to three times that amount – i.e., if a young fisherman was lucky enough to be earning €40,000 per year, then only half of that will be considered by the bank as income and he would be offered a mortgage for approximately €60,000 – not much use given today’s property prices in Ireland.

This is surely one more element of discrimination against the populations in coastal communities.

And yet this continuing downgrading of all people involved in the fishing sector and in the coastal communities somehow seems acceptable to our state authorities.

The disaster of the BREXIT outcome and the lack of political will in our government are obvious causes for frustration in Ireland but the continuing mistreatment of decent people in fishing communities as being ‘not worthy’ of respect are the biggest underlying issues that has the people of this industry reaching boiling point at this time.

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