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As has been well publicised in the days since Christmas, everyone in the Irish fishing and seafood industries can see that Ireland, as a fishing nation, is living on the brink of disaster mainly as a result of the outcome of the EU/UK BREXIT ‘deal’ -- But what role has Ireland’s own industry administrators played in bringing about the current crisis?

For those in the industry this deal has been recognised for what it is – a clear European Commission tactic of sacrificing the Irish fishing rights in its own waters to protect Europe’s bigger fishing interests such as the Dutch, French and Spanish.

Whilst the Irish fishing industry has long cried in vain at the injustice that Ireland physically owns 11% of EU waters but is allocated just 3.4% of overall EU fish quotas, the EU’s BREXIT deal has taken this to a whole new level but, the question must be asked, why are they being aided and abetted by Ireland’s own fishing industry administrators?

Several industry commentators have coined the phrase “the permanent government” in that it has made no difference what political party is in power or what marine minister is at the helm, the permanent senior civil servants in the Dept. of Marine have full control of the management of the Irish fishing industry for over 30 years.

It may be no surprise that fishing ministers over the years have made little impact -- as one-time commander of the U.S. Army W.T. Sherman once said, “politicians are invincible in peace time but invisible in war time”.

How could it be that over the past 30 years we have seen no fewer than 12 new fisheries ministers – all keen as mustard to help the industry in their early weeks – only to take an entirely different stance within a very short period of time, after a few meetings with the real ‘controllers’ of our fishing industry who always rapidly whip a new minister ‘into line’.

The exception to this list of well-intentioned ministers naturally excludes Noel Dempsey who made no secret of his dislike for the industry and the people in it for which he was given charge of and was instrumental in the establishment of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) – a standard industry control & monitoring organisation as in any other EU member state but this one with clear instructions to harass and hamper the fishing industry at every possible opportunity.

And, while Mr Dempsey has long faded into history, his cancerous legacy of a dysfunctional and seemingly out-of-control organisation continues to this very day.

Incompetence or corruption?

The decades of mistreatment of the Irish fishing industry by the EU Commission has been well documented and those in Ireland’s coastal regions have become accustomed to the depressing news every December when Ireland yet again comes out the loser in the annual quota negotiations in Brussels – and have had to accept a minister’s shrug of the shoulders and a “ah well lads, it could have been worse”.

But the horrendous outcome for Ireland of the recent BREXIT deal has gone too far in that previously there was something inevitable about a few percent quota reduction across a few species every year when it was something happening to most EU member states but this time it’s basically a 25% cut in Irish quotas in Irish waters whilst other nation’s vessels, also working in Irish waters, have been given just a token minor reduction.

Throughout all of this there is a presumption, and rightly so, that the people of Irish coastal regions are disgusted with the never-ending mis-treatment of our industry by the EU Commission but their real anger is directed at our own ‘managers’ of the fishing industry.

The history of the administration of Ireland’s marine resource over the past thirty years during which (a) millions of tonnes of quota has been taken from Irish fishermen and given to other EU nations; (b) the size of the Irish fishing fleet has had to reduce in several major decommissioning schemes resulting in the loss of more than one-third of the overall fleet; (c) rural coastal communities suffering with wholescale emigration of its youth – in no small part due to Ireland’s willingness to bend to non-industry demands to close down the wild salmon fisheries (an action which failed in its promise that it would see a dramatic rise in salmon stocks).

One could only imagine that, given this performance, if the current administrators of the Irish fishing industry were running a commercial enterprise with a downhill performance track record such as this then they would have long since lost their jobs.

More worrying still is that if it was simply a case of ineptitude by these managers then that would some kind of excuse (although a miserable one) that they simply were no good at their jobs but it is clear to everyone in this industry that these administrators are the only ones in the entire list of sea faring EU member states who have been, and continue to be, intent on perusing a regime of threatening and bullying to ensure that their method of control -- control of ministers, control of industry organisations, and control of every fisherman and processor in the country -- continues to be the way of things.

An old Irish saying is that “it’s a long road with no turn” – the downtrodden fishing industry will have its day in the not-too-distant future when the truth about these matters, and so many more, finally come into the daylight.

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