Something fishy at the SFPA
Although efforts by senior administrators have attempted to play down the recent strikes and forthcoming ‘work to rule’ steps by officers of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) as being ‘not of relevance’, SFPA staff themselves are adamant that they will continue to highlight the case that they no longer feel in control of their own organisation as Department of Marine involvement continues to grow at an alarming rate.
While our friends in the SFPA have not endeared themselves to fishermen or processors over the years, it does appear possible that they have been acting in a manner in which they have been instructed to do by Department officials with an infamous fondness for the ‘divide and conquer’ regime.
And, with the recent appointment of a long-established Department Principle Officer to the senior post in the SFPA, the organisation’s staff feel that even moreso now, the word ‘Authority’ in the SFPA’s title is becoming a mute point as they now hold less and less authority as a body than ever before.
The recent events also make a joke of Minister McConalogue’s insistence, when it suits him, that the SFPA is an entirely independent body and that neither he nor his officials at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, have any involvement in the running of the SFPA – and then the same minister announces the appointment of a senior DAFM civil servant official to the top job in the SFPA…
The Minister is at least half right – he may have no control, power or involvement in the SFPA, but he should wake up to the fact that his DAFM officials certainly do.
It would be interesting to see the list of candidates that were considered for that SFPA senior appointment and to know how many of them were not DAFM officials.
Meanwhile, one has to feel some sympathy for SFPA staff in this situation – their importance, much akin to the fishing industry itself, is being slowly diluted and, in a poorly veiled strategy, they are becoming nothing more than an arm, or a private police force, for the Department of Marine.
A further blow to these people is the recent departure of a man who, originally brought in to give the body an air of respectability, reportedly spent his time viewing the situation of the problems in the industry and came to the common-sense approach in several issues, in particular that the fishing and processing industries had made reasonable efforts to meet the landing regulations and that a return to weighing in factories was a sensible way to go and if not, then squeezing water out of tanks full of fish would do nothing only damage the quality of the product.
Strange then that this respected figure who was given much fanfare on his arrival to the SFPA not long ago, has this week been reported in an SPFA (DAFM) press statement as deciding to leave his role to ‘spend more time with his family’.
My own take on this is that people with a reasonable outlook and anyone attempting fair co-operation with the industry are unlikely to be popular or to last too long in a system designed to be the exact opposite of that.