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The silent cries

An editorial comment - Cormac Burke, Chairman, IFSA

What has happened in the Irish fishing industry since the protests that were held in Cork and Dublin? And where has the passionate battle spirit that fishermen and their families expressed that, maybe for the first time ever, gained some public sympathy and even had the media on our side for a short time? And why has this industry just gone through a six-week period of deafening silence?

The answer, sadly, seems to be that the strategy of the Minister, the Department of Marine and the SFPA seems to be working - just ride the storm and this will all ‘go away’…

Absolutely nothing has changed since the horrific outcome of the BREXIT fiasco:

  • Ireland, in both demersal and pelagic terms, has still lost approximately 30% of its overall quota, mostly in its own waters;

  • the pelagic sector (both catching and processing) has been given a ‘double whammy’ of quota loss to the UK as well as Norway taking a massive slice of the Coastal States’ mackerel quota;

  • the inshore fleet are facing decimation due to constant reductions of fishing opportunities, despite the point being raised several times that it is unconstitutional to attempt to apply the CFP and SFPA regulations inside the baseline waters;

  • The status of foreign crews working on Irish vessels has still not been addressed and improved upon;

  • Northern Irish mussel vessels have the blessing of our Minister to access of the Republic’s waters while this is not a reciprocal situation;

  • And the apparent lawless SFPA are allowed to continue to carry on its uncontrolled authority and terrible regime of virtual attack on all sectors of the fishing industry whilst not being answerable to any governmental body or person;

  • And a paltry tie-up scheme and the likelihood of a vessel decommissioning scheme the only action this industry is probably going to see for the next year or two - and not only are Irish fishermen expected to accept everything that comes out of the Task Force but they are expected to be grateful for this EU & Irish Government ‘charity’.

It was these and many other injustices that brought the people from every fishing community in the country to unite on the streets of Dublin in an admirable and passionate plea that this Government would, at the very least, give this industry a hearing — but all, it would seem, in vain.

But surely none of us really expected that a couple of well behaved protests in the public eye would bring overnight change — but we DID expect that this would be the beginning of a new era when the voice of the people of Ireland’s fishing communities would be heard and given some respect by our political ‘leaders’ (I use the word ‘leaders’ loosely as it would appear that this government can continue to go against the Irish Constitution and the will of the people on several issues without any challenge and have shown themselves to neither care nor ‘lead’ the people in any shape or form).

I can only speak on behalf of the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA) and its supporters, when I say that its long overdue that this industry rises up and shakes off the apathy and feeling of depressing acceptance that has crept in — and, whilst again not calling for a violent revolution, it is surely time that we see the next step that should come after two ‘polite’ demonstrations.

The ‘softly softly’ approach by some representatives in this industry over the past twenty-odd years has repeatedly proven itself to be a completely useless exercise and serves no one other than the civil servants in Department of Marine, and an attitude of ‘dont rock the boat’ fed down to, and largely accepted by, the industry from this Department is one of the core problems - and those that abide by this mantra should be aware that they are making themselves part of this core problem that, far from benefitting those working in the fishing industry, is in fact only feeding the corrupt power of those that have the absolute control over this industry.

No doubt my comments will cause the Minister to even further distance himself from the IFSA - but with regards that ongoing situation, I firmly believe this is a man who has clearly shown that he has no opinions of his own and at all times adheres strictly to the script provided to him by his civil servants.

Therefore this raises the question as to who exactly is advising the minister to continue to try to ignore the calls for transparency and justice from thousands of people - is it simply the civil servants or could it be from ‘enemies within’ - the same people who want to protect their position and continue their cosy arrangement to work hand-in-hand with the Department’s ‘dont rock the boat’ strategy…

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