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Who’s really in charge of Ireland’s marine affairs?

Over the past thirty years the position of Irish ‘fishing minister’ has changed almost at the rate of the Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection – unsurprisingly then that fishermen remain unimpressed at whoever is in the job as inevitably the appointment will be (a) someone with no prior knowledge of the industry and (b) it will only be a short term appointment anyway, leaving no accountability for any decisions made or actions taken during that term.

So, let’s meet just one member of the ‘permanent government’ – the senior civil servants who ‘advises’ a minister on what he can and can’t say:

It must have been an interesting job description list when Dr Cecil Beamish applied to join the Department of Marine all those years ago – but one doubts if it originally included the vast list of powers he has been assigned over time.

According to a quick search on, Dr Beamish is:

· The Assistant Secretary General for the Marine areas of the department (DAFM) which operates from the National Seafood Centre, Clonakilty, Co. Cork;

· As part of his brief, he “deals with” sectors relating to Sea Fisheries, Aquaculture, Seafood Development & Marketing, Seafood Processing, Fisheries Resource Management, Harbour Infrastructure capital development, Fishery Harbour Management, Marine Research, Marine Institute, BIM, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and all matters relating to the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP);

· Also included in his remit are:

(i) Aquaculture & Foreshore Management Division (the Division responsible for “management of Aquaculture Licensing and Foreshore Licensing in respect of Aquaculture and Sea Fishery related activities”);

(ii) Marine Programmes Division (the Division responsible for “management of Aquaculture Licensing and Foreshore Licensing in respect of Aquaculture and Sea Fishery related activities”) – (same description as (i) above?);

(iii) Marine Engineering Division (the Division which is “regionally organised with offices in Clonakilty, Dublin, Tralee, Galway and Ballyshannon as well at each of the six Fishery Harbour Centres providing technical, advisory and project and operational management support to the Department”);

(iv) Sea Fisheries Administration Division (the Division which “manages and develops the six Fishery Harbour Centres so as to ensure that they provide optimum support to the achievement of Government and Department policies and strategies, such as the Common Fisheries Policy, the National Seafood Development Programme and Foodwise 2025”;

And, without even a hint of irony, this Division is further described by as “providing a transparent, equitable and user-friendly, licensing and registration system for sea-fishing boats to ensure compliance with EU-determined fishing fleet capacity limits and reporting requirements”;

(v) Sea-Fisheries Policy & Development Division – (headed up by Ms J Kelly who is responsible for corporate governance matters relating to BIM, the Marine Institute and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), this Division is responsible for “the implementation of national policies and the negotiation of policies at EU and International level, that support long term sustainability for the sea-fisheries industry in Ireland, and to maximise the long term contribution of the sea-fisheries industry to the economies of coastal regions and Ireland’s blue growth policy objectives”.

This is clearly one very busy man as he seems to hold more positions of power than any fisheries minister would hope, or even want, to have.

But it poses a much more serious question as to how can the government of any nation be so naive as to place full power and control of practically ALL marine, fisheries and aquaculture policies, including Ireland’s dealings with the EU, in the hands of just one person?

And, our Government must be asked, on this man’s retirement, will another candidate be allowed continue in this role?

Once again, the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA) are calling for an independent external investigation into the history, and present day, management of Ireland’s fishing and seafood industries by a sole individual in one sole department and how did it come about that so much power fell into that person’s hands?

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