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Trail of Tears



Editorial Comment - Cormac Burke, Chairman, Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance



Known as the ‘Trail of Tears’, in the winter of 1831, following passing of the Indian Removal Act the previous year, and under threat of invasion by the U.S. Army, the Choctaw Indians became the first nation to be expelled from its lands.


They made the journey to ‘assigned’ Indian territories on foot and without any food, supplies or other help from the government and thousands died along the way.


Described by historians as an attack of genocide and ethnic cleansing - this wasn’t the case of just one tribe but it was simultaneously taking place all across the eastern United States and also involved members of the Cherokee, Muskogee, Seminole and Chickasaw nations.


You might wonder where I’m going with this but at present, walking down any fishing pier in Ireland reminds me of the struggle and eventual destruction of the Native American race and their proud way of life.


While I’m trying to resist the urge to mention our very own cowboys running the show, there are certainly some eerie similarities in the strategies employed.


When the greed of the big players in the USA wanted something they always found a way of getting it and nothing was going to stand in their way and the legal original land owners of the resource were seen as nothing more than a slight inconvenience that needed to be removed at any cost and tactics like lying, robbing, deception, harsh penalties for infringements of ‘new’ laws, leading to imprisonment were the first steps - swiftly followed by even worse measures like starvation and eventual destruction of a once-proud group of people, and all in the name of progress.


Today the same journey of destruction is at an advanced stage in the persecution of native Irish fishermen and their communities.  


They have been crimilised and driven off their seas and the majority of their fish, oil and all marine-related resources have been confiscated, sold out from under them and given to strangers in return for money that the tax paying people of the entire State of this nation never seem to see the benefit of, never mind the fishermen and their families from whom the resource was taken from in the first place.


We have been repeatedly led by forked tongued politicians and civil servants without conscience for the atrocities inflicted by them on the people that trusted them and, ironically, who voted them into power.


For the people of Irish fishing communities, Irish fish and the Irish seas within which they live are akin to the Indians’ buffalo - - so for those with the ultimate goal of the ethnic cleansing of the fishing community, take away their land, take away their resources and deny all basic government support is the obvious strategy.


The main driver to remove the Indians was the various gold rushes in different parts of America and once gold was discovered then the natives were driven off the land by the most effective method and no options were off the table.


Today in Ireland, just one of the ‘new gold’ is wind power and no local indigenous fisherman or his community will stop this money making greed juggernaut from ripping up the seabed.


Meanwhile for the fanatical greens, aided and abetted by politicians fearful of being accused of being ‘anti green’, their new alter is the wind turbine.


These people say they want to ‘engage with the current stakeholders’ as long as such engagements means the fishermen capitulate and move to the new reservation, and if not, they influence media outlets to use any means to repeatedly brand Irish fishermen as criminals and guilty of the destruction of the marine resources. 


Since the 1990s the slow but continuous strangulation of Irish fishing communities has taken its toll.


The downward spiral under the management of the past twenty-five years has gone beyond the point of just being explained away as basic incompetence by politicians and civil servants and its clear that there has indeed been a plan - just that its a plan for Ireland without a fishing industry.


Strategic and gradual closing of all sources of revenue: wild salmon, spur dogs, eels, bass, denial of herring fisheries to inshore fishermen, and restricting all other options to diversify to make it unviable.


Quotas for all other species of fish have been reduced to such levels that those still left in the industry are clinging on by the skin of their teeth, all the while the rest of Europe are helping their fishermen with a fuel subsidy while the Irish government refuses to entertain the thought.


And of course the strategy to shrink and eventually eradicate the Irish fishing industry has been aided by 20 years of Ireland’s obviously intentional failure at EU fisheries negotiations where, bit by bit, Ireland has lost more and more quota while other nations got increased quota and increased access to Irish waters - - and all explained away by Irish politicians and anti industry department officials as being “the EU’s fault” - - and not once in the past 30 years has an Irish fisheries minister and his DAFM officials come out of yet another failed EU negotiation and faced up to being at fault for another botched job but instead came out with the same old story that whatever quota loss Ireland had suffered it could have been much worse…


It is not too much of a conspiracy theory to suggest that in fact these were not failures in their agenda but exactly going to the plan with yet another stab in the back for the Irish fishing industry.


All of this has brought a proud people to their knees, driven them to accept unemployment payments and forced them and their entire communities into economic depression.


It has resulted in previously lively coastal towns throughout Ireland now paling into shadows of their former selves as the younger generation who can see no future, finish school and leave their hometown never to return.


Meanwhile, even to this day, Ireland’s fishing communities’ lands (seas) are being prostituted and trafficked out to everyone and anyone with their own agenda of seizing Irish waters for foreign fishing vessels, offshore wind energy developments, oil & gas resources, and green groups wanting to close fishing areas under the names of MPAs, SACs, and a dozen other titles under the same agenda.


Irish fishing communities are being crucified by their own political leaders and assisted by a State influenced media.


But surely the failure to protect the resources of our country for the benefit of the native population is the ultimate act of treason and will cost the nation as a whole dearly in the future.


The current political and civil servant management have turned the greatest resource of the Irish nation into the greatest resource for everyone bar the Irish people - - the greatest fishing waters in the entire EU has been turned into a liability to the Irish taxpayer.


In terms of waters this island nation has the biggest area in all of the EU but yet we have to accept a decommissioning of one-third of the fleet as we don’t have enough quota for fish to have a fishing industry?


We are losing an entire generation of skilled Irish fishermen labourers while their children are emigrating; Irish seafood shops and fish & chippers are closing down on a daily basis;  Irish fish factories are being denied enough raw material to keep going; and all Irish support industries to the fishing industry are dropping like flies.


The fishing ports and islands are now the ‘assigned territories’ for the last of the fishermen and when they’re gone then will those who are too old to leave and start a new life be left to run casinos and serve coffee for tourists coming to see the relic of an Irish fishing community?


And, with a strategy bent on shutting down an Irish-caught source of natural food and instead import it, we will be at the mercy of others to supply us with the bounties of the sea (often taken from our own waters!) at a price beyond our wildest nightmares - - the same as the Irish property market that is now dominated and controlled by foreign vulture funds. 


The terminal cancerous tumour that has been placed within the Irish fishing sector over the past three decades is looking like it will eventually do its job and kill off Ireland as a fishing nation unless some urgent and serious intervention takes place.


But as a first step, I believe that a tribunal of enquiry should be established to investigate the actions (and bank accounts) of all those who have been involved in the marine sector in the past 25 years: all politicians, senior marine department civil servants, anti industry influencers (who are often found hiding in plain sight), and managers of the fisheries monitoring body to establish exactly what their ambitions for the industry were / are, what interactions they have had with other EU fishing nations, and to examine how all of these people have, and continue to be, associated with the failing of this industry and the people in it.

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