Call for Designation of More Irish Ports, a Dedicated Junior Fisheries Minister and Reform of the Department of Marine
Fr John Joe Duffy a native of Burtonport hails from a tradition of fishing in his family until the 1990's has some strong views on the current situation in the Irish fishing industry locally and around the entire coast of Ireland.
New regulations imposed by the Irish Department of Marine and the Government has seen rural Irish Fishermen and fishing vessels from Northern Ireland being unable to land fish or obtain marine fuel in all but 2 Irish ports. Even boats with unquoted species cannot land at their nearest harbour.
This unacceptable measure of the Department and the Government is typically in line with their lack of defence or understanding for Irish Fisheries in the Brexit negotiations, the department have created another disaster for Irish fishing, either because they do not understand or more likely do not care. Not for the first time have Irish Fisheries Department officials slept it out while decisions were being made in Brussels.
What seemed to be our only strategy during Brexit talks was cling on to French coattails and do with the scrapes that were thrown to us from the table and go away home like good puppies and become vicious doggies to savage our own fishermen. The Irish Department of Marine has become the Department of anti-fisheries and coastal destruction and the persecutor of Irish fishermen, the death bell that tolls for Irish fisheries.
The Department are now requiring small Irish owned boats but are also British Registered and Northern Irish vessels to land their catches in Killybegs or Castletownbere as a result of their failure to designate more Irish landing ports to the European Commission in the aftermath of Brexit.
Not only have the Irish Government and their department of Marine created a Hard border, they have gone against the Good Friday (but they will wheel out the AG to contradict that) and have gone against a reciprocal mutually beneficial agreement that allowed boats from both jurisdictions to fish within the 6 mile limit and land freely in each other’s ports, an agreement that has existed between North and South under the 1967 Voisenage Agreement signed by Captain Terence O Neill then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and by the then Taoiseach Sean Lemass .
The Irish Government and the Department of Marine have created a hard border and certainly, true to form have made it even harder for fishermen. The irony is that fishermen from the Republic of Ireland have access to 7 ports in Northern Ireland but only to 2 ports in the Republic. Bearing in mind there are only three coastal counties in Northern Ireland whereas the Republic has fifteen counties with coastlines but only two designated ports ... leave it to our mandarins in the Department of the Marine.
It is not going to be possible for small boats fishing in the treacherous and wild Atlantic Ocean. This is ludicrous and life threatening for such boats. The end result will be the loss of one or several boats - that will be the price of the stupidity of the Clonakilty & marine officials’ mismanagement of Marine, yet our politicians are complicit in letting it happen. The Department of Marine is a monument to the destruction of Irish fishing and to the persecution of Irish Fishermen.
The Irish Department of Marine’s lack of response to the needs of fishermen and their subsequent impositions on Irish and Northern Ireland based fishermen is draconian and dangerous to the survival and safety of our fishermen. Many of these fishermen are families trying to survive after years of draconian measures, sailing in boats that would be much safer in the /Mediterranean than off the wild Atlantic coast, which offers them no refuge or safety- there is no second chance off Arranmore or Raithlin O Beirne Islands.
Not only does the recent actions of the Department anger me, they infuriate and enrage me. It really saddens and angers me greatly that our small rural coastal fishermen are bearing the brunt of ignorance and outright stupidity of those sitting in swivel chairs making decisions for those whose hard lived working conditions and lives that they failed to understand and care less.
Maybe if they grow up like me in a household reared on the sea - when my Father and others went to sea we worried until their return and at times on a stormy day or night feared that they might never return. Then at times we would get the dreaded information that there were difficulties at sea and the lifeboat was launched - the cold chills of fear I still feel now.... but this is lost on the officials that for way too have provided over the destruction and alienation of the Irish Fisheries sector.
Maybe if our officials grow up in these circumstances they would before making harsh and dangerous rules reflect and take due cognisance of the effects their actions might have on people struggling with the elements in harsh conditions that is Irish fishing.
Upon it’s the original presentation of these measures - we are now witnessing the Council of Ministers decision of 20th June 2018, the Council of “ministers highlighted the need to simplify the current system without additional administrative burden and touched on the possibility of obtaining financial support for the proposed electronic solutions”. The Irish Government have failed Irish Fishermen especially since the Brexit fallout and have no consideration for safety and well-being, never mind any concern of additional administrative burden.
The Irish Government must without Delay designate the ports to the European Commission, ports that have been used for hundreds of years so that Irish and northern Irish fishermen may get access from both for safety and sustainability reasons.
On a local Donegal Radio station Highland Radio on May 18, 2011, the then Donegal North East Deputy Charlie McConalogue called for a complete overhaul of the Department of the Marine to facilitate a revival of the fishing industry in Ireland. Deputy McConalogue then pledged his full support to me (Fr John Joe Duffy) then in my call for reform of the management structure in the Department. He at the time said responsibility is spread across departments, and that needs to change.
We now need that change and meaningful action. The Government must appoint a Minister of State for Fisheries with full delegated authority - this would put an end to the mismanagement of the Irish fisheries sector and completely restructure the Irish Department of Marine.
It is time we had Marine officials that know what is to wear waders & wellingtons in a northerly gale force 8 or 9 west of Aran or Tory, instead of the present approach whereby we are governed by what it seems to be sea loafer wearing, yacht fanciers that never tasted the salty water in a storm while not knowing if you will never make port again.
For 50 years we have allowed the destruction of our Fisheries... now is the time for coastal communities to take their stand and save our future, save our Fisheries.