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Yesteryear’s Marine Times Newspaper Articles
- January 2003

Background to the content of the opening pages in of the January 2003 issue firmly focused on the Dec 2002 Common Fisheries Policy agreement. A high level of dissatisfaction best describes reception of the agreement by Irish fishermen. To put it mildly, the outcome was met with fury by Irish fishermen. High on the agenda were topics relating to clarification status of the Irish Box, disastrous imposition of days at sea limits, reverses in quotas for pelagic stocks and whitefish. The outcome of the Brussels deal led to a major split in opinion between Government Minister Mr Dermot Ahern and Irish fishing organisations.

Away from the perceived sea fishing debacle we find a photo showing a really happy group of individuals. Included are 15 children from the Children’s Unit of Cork University Hospital, along with their nurses, carers and crew members of the Irish Navy Ship, L.E. Róisín at Haulbowline. The occasion was a tour of the ship for the children and the presentation of a cheque for €1500 gratis of the crew.

Moving on we find Tom MacSweeney urging the value of a unified voice for the fishing industry – one voice, clearly saying to the Government what the industry needs! Has Tom’s encouragement been acted upon over the years? Spasmodically at best I believe!

Tom too makes reference to the despicable attempt in 2002 by our Government to abolish the Department of the Marine and to include its portfolio within the Department of Communications and Natural Resources. Unsurprisingly, the response was so loud and unanimous in its condemnation of the action that it was stopped and ‘Marine’ was returned to the name of a Government Department.

News from Scotland was headlined with the single word ‘Protesters’. Dissatisfaction with EU Commissioner Franz Fischler’s plans for a ban on whitefish catches caused a furore. Protesters came from all corners of the country to signal they would fight the ban to the last. Interestingly, the march and rally organised by the save Our Fishing Communities Campaign was led by three Fraserburgh fishermen’s wives who handed over a 44,000 strong petition – one signature for every job at risk on the boats and in associated industries if the EU plans were to go ahead.

Angry Scottish fishermen took part in demonstrations in Britain and France as beleaguered EU Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler tried to defend plans for massive quota cuts. The protests involving fishermen from nations throughout Europe, took place on the River Tyne in England and at French ports.

In the Isle of Man news column dissatisfaction with plans for cuts in fishing quotas didn’t figure at all. Pride of place was given to the fact that singer Andrea Corr, of the Irish band The Corrs, caused male blood pressure to rise when she switched on the Christmas lights at Peel. Andrea was said to have attracted a huge crowd before signing autographs.

As with other UK coastal areas News from the North reflected on the possible bleak and dismal future facing the Northern Ireland fishing industry. A group of local fishermen made the long trip to France in mid December to add their voice of protest against the European Commission’s latest proposals to cut quotas.

Down south in News from Dingle it was a severe storm in early December that headed the items. So severe was the storm that it caused considerable damage to the Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue boathouse. High tides and powerful winds smashed through the boathouse doors and filled the building with water to a depth of four feet in some parts. Luckily the inshore rescue boat was not washed out but some lifejackets were destroyed or swept away.

A further severe weather item appeared under the heading Skellig Light Incident. It was an incident related by the then (2003) Skellig Lighthouse keeper Richard Foran to Ted Creedon, Marine Times correspondent. The remarkable incident occurred on St Stephen’s Night in 1951. At that time the light was permanently manned. It was a night that an incredible storm which lives in the memory of many local people in Kerry occurred. At the height of the storm, just as one keeper was climbing the stairs to the light, a freak wave smashed through the one inch thick glass window and poured down the stairs engulfing the startled keeper. He was not injured but the light was disabled and there were concerns about the safety of the structure for some time. The light is almost 175 feet above the sea.

Prominent also on the page is a photograph of a gentleman on Dingle Pier putting the finishing touches to a placard as part of the Fishermen’s Day of Protest in Dingle. (Much more on the Fishermen’s Day of Protest Later)

An extensive News from Down South column reported amongst other topics on current proposed sea fishing regulations. On the proposal that foreign boats could fish up to the twelve mile limit, one fisherman’s comment was, “They might as well come ashore and join us. They will wipe out the industry”. Further comment came from the Manager of Union Hall Fishermen’s Co-op who said, “We are all shocked with the cuts that we have already had. With cuts of over 50% on most species of fish, we are disgusted with it. At the moment boats cannot go to sea and because of the quotas are not allowed to catch monk.”

Unhappy also were shellfish processors who hit out at the irresponsibility of the government in choosing to close the industry overnight. In an attempt to keep staff and workers employed and factories up and running, processors were forced to import supplies. The Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op Manager said that the announcement of the closure, coming up to Christmas, had shattered a community already reeling from excessive cuts. Tribute was paid to Jason Whooley of the Irish South & West Producers organisation who had succeeded in obtaining megs from Brittany and prawns from Northern Ireland thereby allowing the industry to re-open.

Eye catching amongst the many topic heading was, ‘Diesel Ups and Downs’. Below the script read as follows, “South of Ireland diesel suppliers cut the cost of diesel by three cents only days before the budget. The financial saving was short lived as the three cents were again slapped right back on again in the budget.”

The January 2003 issue of the Marine Times Newspaper provide wide coverage of the Fishing Industry’s Day Action which took place on Friday 13th December 2002. Dare I say it, supporters in a rare show of unity included The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, The Irish Processors and Exporters’ Association, The Irish South & West Fish Producers’ Organisation and the Killybegs Fishermens’ Organisation. Among the ports where vessels tied up for protest meetings were: Greencastle, Killybegs, Rossaveal, Dingle, Castletownbere, Union Hall, Baltimore, Dunmore East, Howth and Clogherhead. It was labelled as a day that would be long remembered by Irish coastal communities. The ‘Day’ was called by the fishing industry organisations to protest at the so-called reforms of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, due to be decided in Brussels a week later. Grievances detailed in the Marine Times are far too wide ranging for this particular précis but suffice to say, Quota Allocation, The Irish Box, Fleet Reduction and Cod Crisis, along with Social – Economic and Regional Aspects figured prominently.

News from Killybegs included coverage of changing times at Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation. The KFO was initially set up in 1979 to represent the fishermen of Killybegs. A caption of a photo taken at its launch, lists Sonny Daly, Director; Paddy Kerin, Dept.of Fisheries; Joey Murrin, Secretary Manager; Hughie Moore, Director; Noel McGing, Chairman; Kevin McHugh, Director; Mick Doyle, Director and Joe Sheerin, Director.

The Organisation had spread it wings by the 2000s with members then based in fishing ports around the Irish and Scottish ports. To meet current and upcoming challenges a new team to front the business was put in place, with Seán O’Donoghue as Chief Executive; Ted Breslin, Deputy Chief Executive; Liz Prior and Olga McGing, Secretaries.

Eye catching pictures portraying happy family occasions featured the marriage of Eibhlin McClafferty and Martin McGuinness; and the occasion when of one of Killybegs all time most highly respected fishermen celebrated his 90th birthday. The man, James McLeod was also founder of Gundry’s Killybegs.

The closing pages of the Jan 2003 issue of the Marine Times Newspaper informed on a number of topical news items: Record year sees angling tourism contribute €11m to North West; C.L.A.M.S. plan announced for Ireland’s largest Oyster Fishery, Dungarven Harbour; Tysons (Ship Builders) develop a rope specifically for fish farms, and BIM Celebrates 50th Anniversary.

So ends a glance down memory lane!