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Yet another fisheries court case lost by the Department of Marine - but who really pays the price?

This week’s Court of Appeal’s decision to over-rule the Minister and his Department’s fight against a previous High Court ruling that vessels over 18m are entitled to fish inside of six nautical miles is yet another case of the Minister and his civil servants being clearly shown as operating in contravention of the laws of this State when trying to enforce their dictatorship upon the Irish fishing industry.

Although this particular case is a controversial one as the ruling impacts on inshore fishing vessels, it is nonetheless further evidence that DAFM continually attempt to hamper the fishing industry and, with an apparent endless pot of taxpayers’ money at their disposal, can appeal every single court victory that the industry might have - even when these civil servants well know that they are ‘on a loser’.

And, as has been recorded by several individuals who have won such Court rulings, they have been regularly told by DAFM senior civil servants off the record immediately afterwards that they [DAFM] would appeal the ruling “because we have deeper pockets than you” [with regards to legal costs].

This, in essence, is saying to the people of the industry “we know we are wrong but if you challenge us in court then we’ll keep appealing over and over again until you run out of money to cover the costs of your legal challenge”.

But look at the litany of cases and just some of appeals wrongly brought by the Department and ask where is the transparency on how many millions of euros of taxpayers’ money has been squandered, all so that the Department can feed their need for power over this industry?

  • The first challenge over the Vosinage Agreement - lost by DAFM;

  • The challenge over the previous attempted introduction of the original Penalty Points system (opposed by Fianna Fáil who promptly signed off on it once they got into power) - lost by DAFM;

  • The dozens of fishermen brought to court on trumped-up penalty point charges and had their cases thrown out by a judge - all lost by DAFM;

  • The challenge by the pelagic industry when the DAFM & SFPA refused to accept a High Court ruling that the state-of-the-art ‘flow scales’ system was an acceptable solution to the issues surrounding the weighing and monitoring of pelagic landings without any damage to the quality of the fish - lost by DAFM;

  • The High Court challenge by two vessel owners against the attempt to exclude vessels over 18m from inside the 6-mile line - lost by DAFM;

  • And now, the Court of Appeal case on this same issue - lost by DAFM.

There are literally dozens of more cases not mentioned here where fishermen were charged with so-called ‘offences’ and forced to tie up their vessels and wait for a court date and then, in the eyes of the Irish legal system, had the charges against them proven to be unfounded and the case thrown out — and every single one of these cases, would have cost thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of euros depending on the length of the case and in total over the past twenty years, such costs clearly run into the millions.

While Minister McConalogue seems content to sit back while the senior officials perform this abuse of taxpayers money (making him also culpable of this abuse of the system) surely the people of Ireland are entitled to know what is the Government budget for the operation of the DAFM and does this budget include millions of euros to wrongly fight so many court cases purely in an exercise to scare off anyone who dares challenge their dictatorship control of the fishing industry?

If, as one would suspect, the Government budget does not include millions for DAFM’s legal folly, then the question must be asked where does this money come from and who signs off on its use for this purpose?

This question is perhaps best put to the Attorney General who, at the very least, should be forced to publicly declare the DAFM accounts to show how much taxpayers’ money has been frittered away by senior civil servants only intent on feeding their own egos and power.

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