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THE MARINE TIMES has learned that the Irish Government is planning to try to reintroduce penalty points for fishermen which were voted down last time by Dáil Opposition parties. Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein combined to defeat the attempt, supported by Fine Gael TDs, to continue to impose penalty points on fishermen for alleged offences, even where the allegations may not have been proven. Indications are that Marine Minister.Michael Creed, has persuaded the Cabinet to try again.

He has told the Cabinet that a penalty points system must be imposed to satisfy EU regulations. Fishermen, through their representative industry organisations have repeatedly stated that they do not object to a penalty points system when fairly designed, but they oppose the singling out of fishermen for a penalty system of guilt even after innocence proven, which is not applied to the rest of the population. They will continue to take this attitude it can be expected. Fishing industry opposition to a new attempt to introduce penalty points via a Statutory Instrument which the Minister would again try to get through the Dáil will, undoubtedly, create more controversy and cause more difficulties politically for the Government and could also face legal challenges, which happened previously.

Minister Creed has been seeking to meet fishermen but the Department appeared unaware that industry organisations are attending an international fisheries meeting in Ghent. Fianna Fáil has argued the new laws must work within the remit of the Irish justice system and those who are penalised should have recourse to challenge their penalties in Irish courts.

The Government has argued that Ireland faces millions of Euros in fines if a system is not imposed, but has not explained satisfactorily to the industry why it insists that, even if found innocent of any charges, fishermen should still be penalised by the imposition of penalty points on their fishing licences. This has been likened to a motorist, if found innocent of speeding charges by a Court, still being subjected to penalty points being imposed on his/her licence.

"Why are fishermen being treated differently and, even if found innocent, held to be guilty by the Government," a senior fishing source said to THIS ISLAND NATION.