Independent Cork TD Michael Collins, has accused the Irish Government of ploughing on with punitive criminalisation of fishing sector

Independent Cork TD Michael Collins, has accused the Irish Government of ploughing on with punitive criminalisation of fishing sector

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie Mc McConalogue was today unapologetic as he rammed the Sea Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021, through committee stage of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, which gives new powers to the SFPA, clearing the way for a campaign of imposing far reaching penalties and destructive policies on the entire Irish fishing sector, according to Rural Independent TD for West-Cork, Michael Collins.

Speaking from Leinster House this evening (Wednesday, 27 October) following Committee Stage deliberations, Deputy Collins stated:

“Any Minister that ploughs ahead with a raft of intimidating new arrangements, which are procedurally flawed, utterly unworkable, negatively impacting the quality of fish, and criminalising fishers on 51 per cent balance of probability, is no friend or ally of the sector.”

“Since assuming office, the government have crucified the €1 billion Irish fishing industry, which employs over 16,000, through massive fish quota losses and a raft of new stringent regulations and penalties, contained in the Bill under deliberation today and will result in fishers not having equality under the law.”

“Every other European national government done everything possible to protect their fishing sectors during the Brexit discussions. In Ireland, the opposite is the case, as our government have accepted a sell-out Brexit deal that will cost an average fisherman between €5,000 and €20,000 in lost annual income.”

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“If all that wasn’t bad enough, the Minister is now hell bent in railroading new legislation through the Dáil which reduces fishermen’s rights under the law.”

“Under this Bill, an unfair and unreasonable penalty points system is being advanced. It allows enforcement officers to decide based on the ‘balance of probability’ rather than the more robust and fairer ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard of proof.”

“Amendments which I tabled today were all voted down on a six to four basis, with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael TDs voted against every single one. It means both parties have unapologetically voted to reduce the rights of fishermen and women under the law.”

“This punitive criminalisation regime initially signed into law by the Taoiseach in August 2020, and now contained in this legislation is crucifying the entire fishing sector in a grossly unfair and extreme manner.”

“Furthermore, all these measures were introduced at the behest of non-elected bureaucrats in Brussels. The government had the option of delaying or not accepting all these measures – but, they chose to run with the Brussels agenda instead.  In so doing, this enables the agenda of misinformation about the sector to accumulate while the Minister stands idle.”

“Cumulatively, this represents the biggest back-knifing exercise on the fishery sector since Ireland joined the EU in 1973, and that is why, I moved an amendment seeking a wide-ranging consultation with the entire sector, prior to implementation of this legislation. Even this reasonable proposal was rejected by the government.”

“Clearly, the views of the sector mean very little to this government. If it did, they would have sought those views prior to making any decision on the three destructive polices they have inflicted.”

“Again today, we witnessed the Minister’s appalling approach, keeping in with the government agenda to tarnish and criminalise fishers. It shows an atrocious level of contempt for the entire sector.”

“Irish fishers and the sector generally deserve much better. This government’s approach to fishing policy is not only inappropriate from a policy perspective – it also contravenes basic protections under our constitutions and the EU Charter of fundamental rights.”

“How can the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs from coastal and fishing constituencies be allowing this to happen or turning a blind eye?”

“I will use every ounce of energy I have to continue standing up for our fishermen on the ground and on the floor of the Dáil. My colleagues and I in the Rural Independent group, will continue to table reasonable amendments to this legislation, when it comes before the Dáil (report stage) in the coming weeks, in order to continue robustly challenging this government on the route they have taken,” concluded Deputy Collins.

Source: Press Release

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