Time to face the music…
There must be accountability
Today’s statement (Marine Times 21/10/22) that it would appear that Minister McConalogue is finally “considering” allowing EU-funded State aid in the form of a fuel subsidy for the long suffering Irish fishing fleet is indeed long overdue.
However, while the Minister is expecting the industry to be grateful for this, I for one support those who are still angry that such a move has taken so many months to happen in Ireland while the rest of the EU fishing fleet have been enjoying reduced cost fuel since the spring and therefore were being helped to keep their business afloat while the Irish fleet was left to sink.
Its hard to believe that, for Irish vessels, the fuel crisis has reached the point that some Irish boats have begun to land their catch (from Irish waters) in France so that they could avail of the EU fuel subsidy — bad enough that over 80% of fish from Irish waters is already being caught and returned abroad by foreign vessels but now even our own boats have no choice other than to land outside of Ireland… all because our Minister, under incomprehensible advice from his DAFM civil servant officials, refused to apply for the same EU fuel aid funds that everyone else is receiving.
This latest fiasco raises so many questions about the way the fishing industry is being so badly managed at political and administrative level and, more than anything else, it gives added fuel (pardon the pun) to the widely-held belief that for over two decades this industry has suffered under an administrative regime with a clear anti industry agenda of divide & conquer, driving the industry to its knees with so many regulations that it makes it neigh-on impossible to go to sea without breaking at least one rule or other, and give free reign to an out-of-control and formally declared incompetent and “unfit for purpose” monitoring authority.
Amidst all of this, McConalogue cannot claim innocence and say he’s only been in charge for a relatively short time as he made it blatantly clear throughout his term that he was willing to be led by the nose by his two senior DAFM officials and be the ‘front man’ for their every decision.
And, in that scenario, to say that he was poorly advised would be a gross understatement.
With an expected cabinet reshuffle coinciding with Leo Varadkar becoming Taoiseach at Christmas any new marine minister might actually have a chance of doing some good for the industry if they are not forced to bend to the powers and agendas of senior DAFM civil servants and, to that end, it is looking likely that that regime is to finally come to an end.
While many in the industry will celebrate at even the possibility of such an event to come sooner rather than later, some scepticism will remain unless this is a COMPLETE CLEAR-OUT of the old guard and that they are replaced with young, smart business people who will have the ambition to turn this industry around rather than those steeped in historical bitterness and anti industry strategy.
Anything else will be a wasted opportunity to finally save an industry which has massive potential.
But, if and when such a decision is made, the decades of intentional mismanagement of this industry should not be allowed to simply be overlooked - when a dictatorship is overthrown then rarely are the guilty tyrants just allowed to walk off into the sunset.
There needs to be an in-depth investigation into the actions of these people and they must be made accountable for the years of big salary paid to work with and for the fishing industry while in fact all their efforts were quite the opposite.
Every document needs examination - the case brought against every fisherman and factory needs to be reviewed - and most of all, this industry will demand to see proof of the so-called ‘efforts’ that these DAFM officials made at EU level supposedly on behalf of and to the benefit of the Irish fishing sector.
Personally I believe that no such proof of effort exists because otherwise how could senior DAFM officials have managed to fail 99% of the time over the past 25 years!
Too many vague, and some downright untrue, statements from the ‘powers that be’ in the current regime have been allowed pass by without question.
For samples of these one needs to look no further than the Minister repeatedly telling everyone for the past six months that no country in the EU was using a fuel subsidy, when he himself knew that to be incorrect.
Even prior to this, the Minister kept telling the media (and the EU Commission) that the “industry has asked for decommissioning” - which is completely untrue - he set up a task force and even before their first meeting the Minister said in public that decommissioning and tie-up schemes is what he expected the recommendations of this task force would be.
In fact some industry groups (who, after the Minister’s selection of the team, made up a paltry 20% of the task force’s ‘industry stakeholders’ body) had it put on record that they were NOT in favour of a fleet decommissioning scheme.
And thirdly, while the Minister has spent his entire term of office denying any connection between he or his DAFM officials and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, it has become public knowledge that meetings had been taking place between DAFM and SFPA on a weekly basis.
While it is often jokingly said you can tell when a politician is lying because his lips are moving, it is certainly no laughing matter that the current DAFM Minister is guilty of bare-faced lies to the industry, the media and to the general public.
Questions must be asked as to how this has been allowed to continue and under who’s instruction is the Minister taking when he makes these statements?
Once again the phrase ‘if and when’ needs to be used in what MUST BE a total revamp of the current corrupt system and those guilty of perpetrating it - but even after such steps there will remain work to be done.
A light must be shone on some dark corners that still lurk within the industry - those with obvious conflicts of interest, those guilty of self interest more-so than for the greater good, and those more interested in keeping the bitter past in operation rather than work towards a bright new future.
These people are dinosaurs and for such people, the focus of attention and some hard-hitting questions will be asked of them in the not-too-distant future…