mary kate ryan investigation

CJ Gaffney and his family have received backing from an Independent Senator for an investigation into the case of the ‘Mary Kate’ WD 30. Photo: Greg Lett

CJ Gaffney and his family have received more backing in their fight for justice over the Irish Government’s handling of the case relating to the fishing vessel ‘Mary Kate’ WD 30, which they purchased from Germany in 2007.

The Mary Kate was passed as safe at the time of her purchase. The beam trawler’s Stability Book was stamped by Germanischer Lloyd. She had a valid Sailing Permit issued by the German Ship Safety Division every two years. The Stability Book was updated and translated by the original design company. The Mary Kate was surveyed twice by a Dutch survey company before purchase, and the vessel was bought from a leading Dutch Ship broker.

“We carried out the necessary due diligence which was applicable at the time of purchase in 2007. All the above paperwork was accepted by the Irish Marine Survey Office and Irish Authorities,” says CJ.

Little did CJ and his family know at that time, that in fact, they had been led into purchasing an iron coffin. Since this time, the Euro-cutter design, of which the Mary Kate is a model, has been condemned.

On two separate occasions the Mary Kate almost capsized during fishing operations. It was then in 2009, CJ consulted an independent naval architect raising concerns about the stability of the vessel.

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“Subsequently, four Incline Tests were carried out. All Incline Tests and hull measurements revealed the same results; 20 tons of steel, in this 23.93M beam trawler, could not be accounted for. The result highlighted the gross disparity between the Mary Kate’s actual stability levels and those stated in the original approved Stability Book. We notified the Irish Marine Survey office of this major stability fault,” says CJ.

The only thing that could be done to correct the extra weight was lengthening the vessel, which also meant acquiring additional tonnage of the Register.

CJ and his family tried everything in their power to correct the issues with the Mary Kate, but were blocked at every turn, and eventually were forced by the banks to sell their boat, leaving them heavily in debt.

And so started a long-drawn-out fight for justice. One that has been championed by opposition politicians until they get into power, only to be dropped like a hot coal straight out of the fire.

Recently, CJ has been told that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will no longer entertain any requests or questions and that anything like it should be directed to the Department of Transport, as “ the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has no function and can play no role in such matters, including matters relating to vessel stability.”

Even though the Marine Survey Office, under the of the Dept of Transport has the role “as the maritime transport regulator for the safety, security, environmental protection and living and working conditions for vessels and ports in Ireland and Irish ships abroad”, CJ has been informed that they are not responsible for failing to notice that the Mary Kate was unsafe.

In a letter, CJ and his family were told, “Furthermore, as this matter arose from the purchase of a fishing vessel, it is essentially a private commercial transaction between two contracting parties. The responsibility for ensuring the authenticity of the details, specifications and safety compliance of the vessel being purchased rests with the purchaser.”

So what is the role of the Marine Survey Office if it is not for the “safety, security, environmental protection and living and working conditions for vessels” and what is the purpose of their survey when you bring a vessel into Ireland?

Independent Senator, Victor Boyhan has now joined the cause and has called on Eamon Ryan, the Minister of Transport to carry out an investigation into the Gaffney family’s case with the Mary Kate.

In his letter to the Minister, he says:

“The Gaffney family are now seeking the establishment of an official and impartial investigation into all matters relating to the Mary Kate fishing vessel.

“No words can describe the nightmare the family has lived through. They have lost their boat, their fishing licence, their fishing quota, their family investment.

“They have lost their livelihood, and respectability within the fishing community, they also feel they have lost their good name and their proud maritime heritage spanning five generations of their family. They are financially ruined.

“As Minister for Transport, I am respectfully asking you to investigate all the issues around this terrible travesty on behalf of the Gaffney family.”

by Oliver McBride

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Independent Senator calls on Ryan to launch investigation into Mary Kate

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