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Spare a thought…


As Minister Charlie McConalogue relaxes on his farm for the summer holidays, and his ‘handlers’ in the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM) lie back on a beach somewhere, and the DAFM’s private police force, the SFPA board of management, stay in their crypts for a while, one wonders if they’ll lose a single minute’s sleep over the crumbling Irish fishing industry over which they preside?


The lack of political will to give even the slightest element of support for the fishing industry, particularly over the past couple of years, has never been more evident — indeed far from a ‘lack of support’ but almost a strategy of anti fishing and anti rural coastal regions is clearer today than ever it has been.


This industry does have some in the Dail trying to bring justice - Padraig MacLochlainn TD, Sinn Fein Spokesperson for Fisheries and Michael Collins Ind. TD to name two stalwarts, but their stout efforts are continually being frustrated by a coalition government with zero interest in stopping the decimation of the Irish fishing industry and have shown themselves far more concerned with pandering to the EU Commission rather than back their own national population.


While things are currently quiet in the Irish pelagic sector due to having a pittance annual quota for various species (but not necessarily quiet in the pelagic sector of other nations), our demersal fleet continues to try to scrape a living - all the while with zero support for the fuel crisis (while Spain and France provide a fuel subsidy for their fishermen), zero actual compensation from the BREXIT money which the DAFM instead gave a tie-up scheme to replace not fishing with a pay-out that, in real terms, is not compensation at all but merely forcing fishermen to swap the quota they were legally entitled to catch with instead, a set amount of money — meaning that not one fishermen or fishing industry business has thus far received a single euro of compensation in the form that the EU Commission intended it when they allocated Ireland hundreds of millions of euros in return for the huge losses of rights for Irish fishermen in their own waters.


Despite all of this, demersal fishermen are, even sometimes working at a loss, trying to keep their businesses going - even though they cannot fish the Porcupine Bank as their minuscule quota is exhausted but other nations can carry on fishing there because they have a bigger quota than Ireland IN IRISH WATERS— and meanwhile, thanks to the current government’s lack of balls, Irish demersal boats no longer have access to the lucrative fishing grounds at Rockall for a fishery that at one time provided a major seasonal benefit to the Irish fleet.


Indeed when recently questioned once again on the Rockall situation the Minister gave the exact same response as he did some five months ago in saying that he and Minister Simon Coveney were ‘working hard’ on this issue …. Let’s not hold our breath waiting for a result on that one….


Spare a thought also for the often forgotten inshore fleet - a body of vessels and fishermen that comprises of over 70% of the national catching sector and yet are consistently brushed aside by the current regime as if they were nothing more than a minor irritation.


Some reports in recent weeks from IFSA inshore vessel members state that, in one case, a Kerry fisherman who has successfully applied for support grant money several months ago has still not received a cent from BIM and is being told it is because he owes harbour dues (which he doesn’t, not now nor previously) - and another Co. Cork polyvalent potting vessel who had a ‘trammel-type’ bottom net set for pollock etc for bait for his pots seized by officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) who, without any formal notification in writing or by email, have verbally informed the fisherman that he is to be charged with attempted illegal fishing (for salmon?) — when surely these officers themselves must well know that 600yds of a bottom-set net with high pressure corks is not intended for catching salmon?


The continuation of such activities, particularly in contravention of the fact that it is your legal entitlement if you are charged with anything in this country then at the very outset you MUST be served with a hard copy document, signed by the officer in charge of the case, and stating the actual charge and the actions taken as a result.


Like the SFPA, the IFI seem to think that they can just go and seize someone’s fishing gear and tell that person they are illegally fishing and then bring a charge against them - all without as much as a scrap of paper offered to explain.


But these cases in the inshore sector are just a tip of a very disturbing system - a system designed to harass fishermen of all Irish catching sectors and then to be constantly presenting a case to the media and general public that all fishermen are somehow undesirables and always ‘up to no good’.


And so, it is little wonder that our Minister and his friends in the various boot camps will sleep well during their holidays, secure in the knowledge that fishermen are getting closer and closer to the edge of going out of business once and for all — and when these ‘managers’ return, it will be time to roll out those old scripts again about a task force, how great they did with a tie-up scheme, how an eventual decommissioning scheme will help but at the end of the day the question must be asked if ANY Irish fisherman in the whole of Ireland saw a red cent of actual compensation from the vast amount of money given to Ireland in the EU’s BAR fund in the manner that other nations literally (and correctly) handed compensation cash to their men?


My personal opinion is that this industry cannot survive another twelve months of the abuse of power at political and management level that we have seen in the past three years - something has to give before we all go under and Irish ports become nothing more than terminals for other EU nations landing the fish that they catch in Irish waters before transporting it abroad.


*Footnote

Speaking of holidays, everyone needs a break and I’m going to take a few days out of office this week and next but, as always, I will be available for contact by phone and email.

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