Irish fishing industry has no confidence in Minister over SFPA issues

The fish weighing debacle is adversely effecting South West Donegal economy as no resolution is in sight, writes IFPEA, CEO Brendan Byrne

The Irish fishing has no confidence in the Minister for the Marine and two of the senior civil servants in e Department, was the outcome of the meeting in Killybegs on Saturday evening.

At the meeting, the Minister had told the attending public, which included fishing representatives, fishermen, fish processors and locals that he backed the SFPA despite the economic hardships being caused by their actions.

This morning again, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue backed the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) over the weighing debacle in Killybegs, and in the process alienating himself further from the sector for which he was given the portfolio from the Taoiseach.

Speaking on local Donegal radio station, Highland Radio’s Nine-til-Noon Show, presenter Greg Hughes asked the Minister McConalogue about what he could do about the current situation in Killybegs. 

The Minister said that that he did not have power over operational matters of the SFPA but as Gerard Kelly from Greencastle pointed out later in the show, that although he didn’t have power over operational matters, he does have power over policy matters. ands have been tied as soon as they were appointed.” 

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Minister McConalogue said that the SFPA was on the same footing An Garda Síochana and Revenue officials, where the relevant Minister does not interfere or talk about what they do as it was legally prohibited. 

The Minister said issues involved in the interim Control Plan was out of his hands as it is how the EU Commission wants the SFPA to handle fish weighing on landing in Irish ports. He said that the EU wants 5% of the pelagic catch weighed on non-industry weighing machinery at the pier side, this is despite the fact that the High Court, in June 2021, found that the weighing of fish in an industry owned apparatus was legal. 

The Minister said that the situation came about when the EU Commission (COM) launched an audit in 2018 into the weighing of landings in Killybegs. Following from that they launched an administrative inquiry which resulted in the COM revoking the national control plan for Ireland. 

The Minister did not mention that the COM only began the audit based on information in a report given to them by the SFPA, the state body that has been found as incompetent in three separate reports. 

The Minister said that there was tremendous fishing industry in Killybegs and in Ireland which he was looking to maximise for the potential of the country and that is what he and his department was working towards. 

Chair of the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance, Cormac Burke, speaking on the show said that the fishing industry had no confidence in the Minister or in two of the senior civil servants in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. 

He said that the Minister attending the meeting in Killybegs on Saturday showed a serious disconnect between himself and the industry. He said that instead of sitting there and listening to the concerns of the people he proceeded instead to preach to them. 

Mr Burke said, “Some would call it brave, some would call it stupid, but I felt that what he should have done the responsible and respectful thing to do would be to come and sit and listen.” 

“I openly said to him that I felt coming and using this as an opportunity to use this like a political rally to spout propaganda about what he has done and what he’s doing and you know, just patronising the people at this meeting. I felt he disrespected the people of Killybegs and the people of the industry nationwide. 

“They’re trying blind these people with their facts and figures and EU regulations. When these people know far far more about this topic than he does. 

The IFSA Chair said that the Minister had clearly missed the opportunity the opportunity to start a dialogue between the SFPA and the fishing community. He said that even though the Minister insists that the fishing industry sits down around the table with the SFPA for talks, it will never happen because the SFPA are not prepared to work with the fishing industry. 

Mr Burke put the failures in DAFM down to two senior civil servants. He said, “I’d say that in the last 25 years there’s only one remaining constant involved in the Irish fishing industry. There’s not one Irish politician. Not one member of EU Commission, not one fishing industry representative who are in place today that were there 25 years ago except for one constant, aside from the fishermen themselves, and that constant is the two seniors who had servants in the Department of the Marine. 

“I openly said that in my address at the meeting yesterday. This is the problem in our industry, and this is where the Taoiseach must be forced to investigate. You know, I mean, we’ve seen ministers, some good people come and go and it’s quite clear their hands have been tied as soon as they were appointed.” 

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Irish fishing industry has no confidence in Minister over SFPA backing

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