Minister McConalogue told the ball is back with him after referring the Gaffney family to the Dept of Transport over ‘Mary Kate’ compensation

Minister McConalogue told the ball is back with him after referring the Gaffney family to the Dept of Transport over ‘Mary Kate’ compensation

The case of the Gaffney family and the ‘Mary Kate’ WD-30 is one of Ireland’s longest running maritime sagas with no end in sight as the Irish government continues to refuse the Arklow family compensation for a fishing vessel was that was deemed seaworthy by the Marine Survey Office.

Sean Kelly Fine Gael MEP for Wicklow has stated in writing to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, that distribution of exceptional funding under the EMFF falls under his purview as stated by Green Party leader and Minister of Transport, Eamon Ryan, TD.

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In a letter addressed to Minister Charlie McConalogue TD, Mr. Kelly states that a recent letter to CJ Gaffney from the Minister of Transport, clearly states that the Minister of the Marine is responsible for distributing funding from the EMFF and he as Minister of Transport does not have jurisdiction over this, clearly kicking the ball back into McConalogue’s garden.

CJ Gaffney is now calling on councillors of Wicklow County Council to table a new motion to recognise the EU Commission’s confirmation that the government could exceptionally address his case through the EMFF. If the motion is passed it allows for a follow-up and the government cannot ignore a motion passed by public representatives.

The case of CJ Gaffney and his family has highlighted a serious deficit in both Irish and European Union law. Laws are there to protect and maintain the integrity and security of small business owners and working citizens alike. Unfortunately, there is no other redress for the Gaffney family, and the Irish government continues to fail put right a wrong inflicted on the Gaffney family from Arklow, even though a simple option has been handed to them by the EU Commission.

On 21 January this year, EU Commissioner of the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius gave his opinion on the situation, and restated the Commission’s position on the issues. He wrote:

“The Commission investigated several ways to address the unfortunate case of fishing vessel Mary Kate WD30. Since 2009, when the Commission was initially approached, extensive correspondence and meetings took place with the vessel’s owner, as well as with Irish Members of the European Parliament and members of the Irish Oireachtas, who represented on his behalf.

“The Commission advised at the time to investigate potential EU contribution, such as financing of safety investments on board or granting of permanent cessation aid (decommissioning) under the European Fisheries Fund 2007-2013 (EFF) or the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund 2014-2020 (EMFF). However, the choice of measures and further selection of projects is a decision that can be taken only by the Irish authorities.

“In general, all the above-mentioned correspondence in relation to EFF or EMFF has been copied to the Irish EFF/EMFF managing authority (i.e. Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine – Marine Programmes Division).

“While having taken due note of the situation of the vessel’s owner, the Commission recalls the lack of EU jurisdiction in this case, as all the identified aspects related to it are under the national competences of the Member State.”

Previously, on 20 January 2022, a joint letter from 10 Irish Members of the European Parliament, including Sean Kelly MEP was sent to the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, Minister of Transport, Eamon Ryan and Minister of the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, showing support for a compensation settlement for the Gaffney family.

The letter stated, “Having liaised at length with the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) and the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) in the European Commission, they have advised us that the European Commission has no jurisdiction over this matter. This is so for two reasons. Firstly, fishing vessels with a length of less than 24 metres, such as the MV Mary Kate, fall outside the EU fishing vessel safety legislation (Directive 97/70/EC). Secondly, fishing vessels are not covered within the Single Market legislation and hence EU acquis on consumer rights are not applicable in this case.

“However, the European Commission has made it clear on several occasions that Mr Gaffney’s case can be exceptionally addressed through the European Fund for Maritime and Fisheries. This matter has been previously reverted to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as the Department of Transport for consideration.

“In your letter to Minister Simon Harris dated 6 December 2021, you indicated that issues concerning the safety of fishing vessels and safety certification come within the competence of the Minister of Transport. Clarification regarding this issue is therefore needed as to what department would be responsible to distribute exceptional funding under the European Fund for Maritime and Fisheries in this case, as indicated for use by the European Commission. At this stage, the matter has been left unresolved for the best part of 15 years and it does not reflect well on the government that this remains the case when a clear remedy is available.”

In a reply to a letter from Sean Kelly MEP on the 19 April 2021, head of the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, Magda Kopczynska also said that the case was outside her department’s jurisdiction but, “In terms of addressing the loss that Mr Gaffney has suffered, on a previous occasion the possibility was outlined that the case might exceptionally be addressed through the European Fund for Maritime and Fisheries, but that this was a decision for the Irish authorities as they oversee the allocation of such funding. The Commission could not instruct them in this regard.

At the end of March 2022, Minister of Transport, Eamon Ryan replied to a letter from Sean Kelly MEP stating, “I further wish to advise that any issues relating to fisheries aspects of this case such as fishing boat licensing, quotas or financial matters under the European Fund for Maritime and Fisheries are not within my remit as these are related to the commercial fisheries aspects and fall under the purview of my colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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Ball is back with Minister McConalogue over ‘Mary Kate’ compensation

by editor time to read: 9 min