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ISWFPO Chief Patrick Murphy says bad advice on compensation for the Irish fishing industry decommissioning scheme could threaten its outcome. Photo: Sean McConville

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been given bad advice regarding compensating boat owners who applied for the Brexit Voluntary Permanent Cessation Scheme, according to Irish South and West (ISWFPO) CEO Patrick Murphy.

The proposed Brexit Voluntary Permanent Cessation Scheme, more commonly known as the Decommissioning Scheme, proposed by the Seafood Sector Task Force and introduced by Minister Charlie McConalogue has been thrashed by the Irish fishing industry as not being fit for purpose and an insult to those who have opted to leave the industry.

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A meeting held in Limerick by the ISWFPO on Wednesday the 18 January heard from a majority of the 57 fishing vessel owners who received Letters of Offer from an Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Those of the 57 who could not attend sent representation, but all agreed that they would not take part in a scheme that they feel is contrived to set fisherman against fisherman in the compensation stakes.

Speaking to The Fishing Daily today, Patrick Murphy said that 20 of the fishing vessels have been left with no other option but to carry on fishing, but some boat owners have been left in a state of play post the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), where they do not have enough quota left to fish themselves out of debt, something the Minister should be aware of, and if he isn’t then he should be made aware of.

He said the Minister should show some sense and compassion when it comes to bringing an end to someone’s livelihood. He says:

“It a damning indictment for any minister that some boat owners who have worked all their lives will not be able to pay themselves a redundancy if they take the Decommissioning Scheme in its current state. Some of these boats are mortgaged, heavily in debt and the bank will take the decommissioning compensation in order to satisfy that debt. Then what are they left with?

“It’s also a damning indictment of any minister who refuses to meet with the industry so we can discuss that with him. We want our issues to he be heard by the Minister. Surely, he’s not intent on turning his back on Irish citizens and victimising them. That they have to leave the industry penniless.

“This talk that the Decommissioning Scheme is voluntary. There’s nothing voluntary about it as I said before. These people are forced out because they have no choice, because the fish was taken off them.

“The Minister has a scheme approved by the EU Commission that is supposed to reduce the Irish fishing fleet by 60 vessels, that is supposed to free up enough tonnage for the rest of the fleet to continue fishing.

“How will it look when he goes back to Europe, and he hasn’t delivered the scheme he promised.”

The lack of communication with the fishing industry over the Decommissioning Scheme led those who attended the meeting on Wednesday to agree to writing a letter to the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, asking for his intervention in the matter.

“When you can’t get the Minister to listen, there is no choice to go to the Taoiseach and tell him we feel the Minister is getting the wrong advice and we can prove that from the figures his department has given us. The scheme wasn’t designed to make sure these people were cheated. The scheme cannot be designed to cheat people out of their entitlements. Surely, that was never the intention.

“If there is a flaw in the scheme like that, then surely it will have to be revisited. We’ve looked at the sums and at the scheme, and we know the Minister has to go back to the European Commission, say that they scheme is not quite what they had envisaged and ask that more money can be put in the scheme, or else the scheme will fail,” says the ISWFPO Chief.

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Bad advice on compensation threatens Decommissioning Scheme

by editor time to read: 7 min