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The Irish fishing industry - -the dirty words in the corridors of power

The revelations by Tom MacSweeney in the latest edition of Marine Times (June 2024) that not one single party leader in the current Irish coalition government were bothered enough to respond to a direct question regarding their opinion of the Irish fishing industry is shocking but, sadly, unsurprising.

Noting that Fianna Fáil, Fianna Gael nor the Green Party made not a single reference to the fishing industry in their annual party meetings this year, Marine Times posed a direct question to each of these parties’ leaders to ask for their opinion or comment regarding this industry - - - the response, or should I say, lack of response, speaks volumes of how this government views this industry and the people of the Irish coastal communities that have relied on it for hundreds of years.

As reported by Tom Mac Sweeney, An Taoiseach / Fianna Gael party leader Simon Harris didn’t even have the manners to acknowledge receipt of the Marine Times’ email, never mind respond to it; the office of Tanaiste / Fianna Fáil party leader Michael Martin forwarded the email to his secretary “for attention” but of course no response was forthcoming; Green Party leader Eamon Ryan’s press office returned a reply which was not from Ryan but from a clerk in that office to say that he “recognises the importance that the coastal and fishing communities have in delivering renewable energy for the country as a whole”……

While the first two non responses are tragic enough, the Green Party’s response is alarming in that it indicates no support but that somehow all the fishing industry exists for is to be some kind of a tool that will be used (or eradicated) to make way for the advancement of renewable energy.

Hung out to dry

For the past four years in particular everyone in this industry has castigated Minister McConalogue and the officials at the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM) for their apparent anti-industry stance on so many issues - - issues that have ranged widely from lack of basic support for the inshore sector, defending the quotas of the Irish demersal fleet, and standing by and watching the Irish pelagic stocks be pillaged by other EU and non EU nations - - but is it possible that we’ve being giving too much credence to the perceived power of the minister and his officials?

While people in such lofty political and civil service positions will always like to pretend to the public that they are masters in complete control of things the fact remains that it is becoming ever clearer that the demise of the Irish fishing industry is not just the fault of one man, no matter how much the man in question seems to derive some sort of twisted pleasure from it, but that there exists a wider picture, a joint political strategy from this ‘coalition of chaos’ that at some point decided that this is an industry that is not worth fighting for but that it IS an industry worth sacrificing when there are major financial gains on offer for replacing this sector with something else, regardless of how the people of rural coastal regions feel about it.

There can be no other nation in Europe, and certainly no other island nation anywhere in the world, that would allow its government, those elected and paid by its citizens to work on their behalf, to completely abandon not just one marine-related industry but an entire way of life for thousands of people in coastal regions, and then wheel out a political sacrificial puppet to answer all the pleas for help with the repeated “my department and I are looking into that and we’re monitoring the situation”…..

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