IFSA Chairman Cormac Burke says that while the fuel relief will be welcomed, the Minister will not be forgiven for his late action

IFSA Chairman Cormac Burke says that while the fuel relief will be welcomed, the Minister will not be forgiven for his late action

If Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue does announce a fuel support scheme for the Irish fishing fleet, he shouldn’t be looking for forgiveness due to the lateness of his action, says Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance Chairman, Cormac Burke.

Last night, it was announced in The Fishing Daily by Irish fishing representatives that they believed the Minister was close to announcing a fuel subsidy scheme for the Irish fishing fleet. The fishing industry has been struggling with the price of fuel since the outbreak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and while other EU member states has taken advantage of a derogation to subsidies their fisheries and aquaculture industries, the Minister here has not acted, saying that he has been “monitoring and assessing” the ongoing situation, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin suggesting in the Dáil that the Voluntary Permanent Cessation Scheme was the best scenario for boats that could not afford to go to sea.

Last week boats in Donegal were paying €1.49 per litre for marine fuel oil. This is three times the price they were paying last year. On the south coast, some vessels have taken advantage of the fuel subsidy in France and have landed their catches there along with refuelling.

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While Irish boats remained crippled by a distorted playing field, Spanish and French boats are benefitting from fuel subsidies and remain fishing in Irish waters.

“It’s hard to believe that, for Irish vessels, the fuel crisis has reached the point that some Irish boats have begun to land their catch (from Irish waters) in France so that they could avail of the EU fuel subsidy — bad enough that over 80% of fish from Irish waters is already being caught and returned abroad by foreign vessels but now even our own boats have no choice other than to land outside of Ireland… all because our Minister, under incomprehensible advice from his DAFM civil servant officials, refused to apply for the same EU fuel aid funds that everyone else is receiving,” writes the IFSA Chair.

If the purported move happens, it leads to numerous questions as to why it has taken the Minister so long to act in the best interests of an industry under his portfolio, as questioned by Cormac Burke who says:

“This latest fiasco raises so many questions about the way the fishing industry is being so badly managed at political and administrative level and, more than anything else, it gives added fuel (pardon the pun) to the widely-held belief that for over two decades this industry has suffered under an administrative regime with a clear anti industry agenda of divide & conquer, driving the industry to its knees with so many regulations that it makes it neigh-on impossible to go to sea without breaking at least one rule or other, and give free reign to an out-of-control and formally declared incompetent and “unfit for purpose” monitoring authority.”

The incompetence of the Minister lies firmly at the door of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) accord to Burke:

“Amidst all of this, McConalogue cannot claim innocence and say he’s only been in charge for a relatively short time as he made it blatantly clear throughout his term that he was willing to be led by the nose by his two senior DAFM officials and be the ‘front man’ for their every decision.”

Burke says that the next incumbent of the DAFM portfolio must conduct a clear out of department officials if there is to be any progress, as he believes, like many in the industry, that some civil servants have a poisonous attitude towards the fishing industry. He says:

“There needs to be an in-depth investigation into the actions of these people and they must be made accountable for the years of big salary paid to work with and for the fishing industry while in fact all their efforts were quite the opposite.

“Every document needs examination – the case brought against every fisherman and factory needs to be reviewed – and most of all, this industry will demand to see proof of the so-called ‘efforts’ that these DAFM officials made at EU level supposedly on behalf of and to the benefit of the Irish fishing sector.”

Concluding his statement, the IFSA Chair says:

“A light must be shone on some dark corners that still lurk within the industry – those with obvious conflicts of interest, those guilty of self-interest more-so than for the greater good, and those more interested in keeping the bitter past in operation rather than work towards a bright new future.

“These people are dinosaurs and for such people, the focus of attention and some hard-hitting questions will be asked of them in the not-too-distant future.”

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Fuel relief will be welcomed but Minister will not be forgiven says IFSA Chairman

by editor time to read: 8 min