Ireland is the Village Idiot of the EU Community writes Cormac Burke, Chair of the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance (IFSA)
The EU Commission’s Common Fisheries Policy operates under some strange and very questionable principles, writes Cormac Burke of the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance.
If a thief entered your property and helped himself to your assets then naturally enough you would expect him to be arrested.
And if the burglar persisted and continued to rob you it would be astonishing if the courts then rewarded him with the rights to continue to help himself to your assets which, the court agrees, are on your property.
The basis of the court’s decision is that he has been helping himself to your assets for decades so somehow this grants him an entitlement to continue to do so.
But when you then try to utilize some of these same assets (on your own property) the court threatens you, the rightful owner, with massive penalties.
This, in a nutshell, is Ireland’s relationship with the Common Fisheries Policy — put simply, we are being robbed.
Without any doubt, the CFP is based on a cynical last-minute grab of our resources and there is no one who is familiar with the history of the EEC who will disagree that the European Union pushed through an access agreement just 24 hours before Ireland and Britain began accession talks.
This may have been technically permissible but it is grotesquely morally and ethically wrong.
Every country has its resources: Germany has its steel, France it’s vineyards, Spain it’s 60 million tourists and Ireland’s natural national asset is, or at least should be, it’s fish.
What are we doing to try to right this major wrong? We send turncoat senior civil servants and politicians to BREXIT negotiations and unsurprisingly, they return with further massive losses to the Irish nation and the ever-shrinking fishing industry.
The EU Commission is well aware of Ireland’s track record of the failure after failure over the years of the same individuals and they must be delighted to see them approach the negotiating table every time as they know the word ‘no’ is not in the Irish representatives’ vocabulary when it comes to dealing with Europe.
These same civil servants reserve the word ‘no’ for their dealings with the people back home whom they are paid to represent and who’s lot they are meant to defend and support.
While we still await Minister Mc Conalogue’s promised display of “fighting tooth and nail” to correct the situation – do we accept that his email to the Commission asking them to reconsider, to which of course they replied that they would not, was his best ‘shock and awe’ tactic?
The Minister’s political talk of fighting is not reflected in his actions in setting up a taskforce where, in effect, he has already instructed the group, most of whom have never worked a day of their lives at sea, to make recommendations on a tie-up and decommissioning scheme. More defeatism.
Meanwhile, isn’t it strange how every time the industry is again failed by overpaid civil servants an article appears in the national press, no doubt being generated by these same civil servants, which attempts to distort facts about the Irish fishing industry?
The latest piece of fiction recently appeared in the Irish Examiner (Saturday 27th March).
Here we have a handful of disgruntled SFPA officers, hiding behind a protected disclosure, threatening their bosses and the whole article is turned on the alleged illegal activities of the fishing industry. Elements of the so-called “revelations” go back nine years and more.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has clearly determined that there is no case to answer and yet we have the EU Commission attempting to investigate these allegations.
Would this same Commission have the cheek to challenge the justice systems of Germany, France, Netherlands or Spain?
How far does this collection of unelected officials think they can go into the affairs of an independent country?
The fact that 33 cases sent to the DPP were not worthy of further action tells any neutral observer that we are dealing with some very zealous individuals who still see illegal activity where it has been repeatedly proven that there is none. This is the end of that particular non-story – until the next time another anti industry propaganda rag newspaper publishes yet another regurgitated version of it.
But one must ask why the Commission is so intent on focusing on the Irish industry and why is it not closely examining illegal activities elsewhere in the European Union:
- the blatant systems which some EU countries use to electronically swap quota at sea when their vessels are being boarded?
- The ability of certain EU nations to be able to change their flag of convenience whilst at sea and start to fish another quota?
- Why does it not prohibit the use by certain countries of undivided national quota which in practice means every vessel can catch as much as it wants?
- Why is it not focusing on massive freezer trawlers which, it is continuously alleged, grade their catch to a very high degree and dump the smaller fish at sea?
- Why is it permitting the use of proven destructive gears and why is it not visiting Spanish and Portuguese fish markets where vast amounts of undersize fish are on open sale daily and cameras are prohibited?
The reason why the EU chooses to ignore these much bigger infringements is that certain countries value their industries and will defend them, even to the extent of turning a blind eye to illegal activity.
These other member states will not tolerate this degree of interference from the EU Commission but, in contrast, Irish civil servants attempt to hide their massive failures by blaming the very industry they are meant to help develop.
They will do whatever they can to deflect the spotlight from their own failings and onto the industry, even clutching at nine-year-old stories where there is no case to answer.
All of this has led us to a situation where once again the industry is forced, by the dismal performance of our representatives, to shrink.
Just as we lose fish, through this manipulation, others continue to gain – in OUR waters.
The UK is meant to have left the EU but it still has every kilo of fish in Irish waters that it previously had. The British-registered Dutch and Spanish-owned fleet have gained Irish fish through Brexit. Remember British individuals and companies sold this quota to the Dutch and Spanish and our civil servants have now handed them a significant volume of Irish fish, for free, to compensate them for what they sold.
Only an Irish team of civil servants and politicians could have agreed to such an unbalanced and frankly, embarrassing, deal. What is most unforgivable in this instance is that the Irish Government had the power to veto the deal.
There is absolutely no way Boris Johnson was going to drop a tariff and quota free trade deal with Europe if Ireland didn’t surrender 15% of its fishery resources.
Ireland’s current marine minister, in every Dail reply, has squeezed into his answer the assertation that it would have been much worse if there had been no deal.
Even the most fanciful of scaremongers knew that this could not happen and that this weak argument holds absolutely no water.
The simple fact is that the EU knows that Ireland is pathetic when it comes to looking after its own resources and this is the reason that we have suffered a far greater loss than any other country.
It would not have happened if stronger people did our bidding and the net result is a decommissioning scheme that very few vessel owners want.
This scheme is being described as “voluntary”, but, in effect, will be compulsory as the infighting SFPA and the same civil servants who pushed through the indefensible penalty points system, will do everything in their power to continue to attempt to criminalise hard-working people who are trying to earn a living in the toughest of environments.
Put simply, the same people who are responsible for the loss of at least 20% of Irish quota in Irish waters are now saying to fishermen that they have a choice of continuing to operate but with a huge future loss of revenue or they can opt to take an EU-funded pay-off to scrap their vessels so that the size of the Irish fleet can be reduced to fit the remaining Irish quota whilst other EU nations can continue to enjoy the benefits of fishing in rich Irish waters.
That isn’t a ‘voluntary’ scheme – its a gun to a man’s head scheme; a “take the deal or go bankrupt” offer.
From the management of all sectors, governing Ireland’s smallest artisanal inshore vessel fishery right up to the biggest pelagic boat in the country, and all of the fish processing and ancillary service companies in between, our civil servants are not only guilty of the neglect of the Irish marine sector but are clearly responsible for the ongoing destruction of the industry and the eventual decimation of Ireland’s coastal communities.
How did we as a once proud independent nation come to the point where Ireland’s history of ‘negotiating’ with the EU (and not just in fisheries) became such a tragic story of the peasant ‘doffing his cap’ to his landlord?
Our fumbling negotiators sit at the back of the Commission room every time and just agree to what the EU hand out or, in the case of Irish fish, take, from us – do these ‘Irish representatives’ not have a single ounce of national pride that would make them, even just once, stand up to the EU Commission and say “no, the people of Ireland reject this proposal!”
Source: Press Release