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Coveney and Creed reject Scottish Government’s unilateral threat of “enforcement action” against Irish fishing vessels fishing within 12 miles of Rockall

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Simon Coveney TD and the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. have received a formal letter of notice from the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP stating that it will deploy vessels in the Rockall area to take “enforcement action” against Irish vessels found fishing within 12 miles of Rockall from this weekend onwards.

The jurisdiction over the 12 mile area around Rockall have long been disputed. The position of the Irish Government has been and remains that the waters around Rockall form part of Union waters under the Common Fisheries Policy, to which the principle of equal access for the vessels of all EU Member States applies. Irish vessels have operated unhindered in the Rockall zone for many decades fishing haddock, squid and other species.

The Scottish Government raised the issue of access to the 12 mile area around Rockall for the first time in 2017, following the Brexit Referendum. There have been discussions and exchanges between the Tánaiste, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and their officials and their Scottish counterparts over the past two years. Ireland’s position has been strongly made that there is no basis for excluding Irish fishing vessels from the Rockall waters as they are legitimately pursuing EU fishing opportunities in these waters and have done so unhindered for decades.

Minister Creed said today “the Tánaiste and I have worked very closely to avoid a situation whereby Irish fishing vessels who have been and continue to fish for haddock, squid and other species in the 12 mile area around Rockall, are under the unwarranted threat of “enforcement action” by the Scottish Government. However, following this sustained unilateral action by them, I have no option but to put our fishing industry on notice of the stated intention of the Scottish Government.”

The Tánaiste today said that “the longstanding position of the Irish Government is that Irish vessels are entitled to access to Rockall waters. We have never recognised UK sovereignty over Rockall and accordingly we have not recognised a territorial sea around it either. We have tried to work positively with the Scottish authorities and to deal with sensitive issues that flow from it in a spirit of kinship and collaboration. We very much regret that matters have reached this point and intend to do everything possible to achieve a satisfactory resolution.”

Minister Creed today met the fishing industry representatives to explain the situation and to advise them of the threat of enforcement action against our fishing vessels by the Scottish authorities. Minister Creed said “I held a difficult but necessary meeting today with our fishing industry representatives. I am very disappointed to have had to make them aware of the risk of enforcement action against them for fishing legitimately in the waters around Rockall. The industry representatives understood the situation facing Irish vessels but are justifiably concerned at this action being taken by a fellow Member States where our industries are closely connected.”

Fishing restrictions on Rockall completely unacceptable – Pat the Cope Gallagher

UK claim on Rockhall has never been recognised by Ireland -

Fishermen in North West have traditional right to these waters-

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Marine & Fisheries Pat the Cope Gallagher says it would be completely unacceptable for any restrictions to be put on Irish vessels fishing in waters around Rockall, an island off the coast of Donegal.

Deputy Gallagher was responding to a threat from the Scottish government that it will take action against Irish vessels fishing within the 12 mile zone around the island.

“This is a most serious escalation in intra country relationships between Ireland and the Scotland must be dealt with immediately by the government here. I note that the declaration was made by the devolved Parliament in Edinburgh only, and at this juncture it appears not to have the backing of the British government”, said Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher.

“Rockall is subject to a claim of ownership by the British government since 1955, but that same claim has never been recognised by any Irish Government nor has the British claim been ever been lodged with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“There are numerous Donegal fishing vessels, from both Killybegs and Greencastle ports, fishing off Rockall and in the immediate waters surrounding the rock. These are long standing fishing traditions and patterns, which predate any claim by any other jurisdiction of these jointly fished grounds.

“The Irish Government must immediately engage with the UK government in Whitehall in an attempt to restore calm to the volatile situation at intra government level. In the interim, the Minister for Foreign Affairs should also meet with the British Ambassador to voice this country’s concerns about the messaging coming from the Scottish government.

“I personally will be raising these matters with An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar when the Dáil resumes next week, but I would expect, as does every Irish person within the state, that between now and then, the rights of the Irish Nation and the rights of our fishermen will be protected by the government of this State.

“The unilateral actions of the Scottish government has set an undesirable tone – especially ahead of anticipated Brexit discussions.

“The Irish government needs to step up and defend Irish interests without further delay, and this declaration by the Scottish Government must be challenged at the highest level”, concluded Pat the Cope Gallagher.