Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue welcomes EU Commission decision to adopt the €258 million EMFAF Programme 2021-2027 for Ireland mcconalogue allocating BAR IFSA

Is Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue out-of-time in allocating BAR funding? – IFSA Chair Cormac Burke criticises the Minister’s lack of transparency

The question of what Minister for Agriculture, Food and Foreign Affairs, Charlie McConalogue is doing with the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund (BAR) for the Irish fishing industry has been brought into question by the Chair of the IFSA.

With less than three months to go before the deadline to spend the BAR, and without the Minister divulging where the funding is to be allocated, the IFSA Chair, Cormac Burke has asked the question, what is the Minister and the Irish Government planning to do with the funding allocated to the fishing industry

Is the Brexit money being saved for a rainy day? asks the IFSA Chair. “Well Minister, it’s pouring right now in the Irish fishing industry!”

The Irish fishing and seafood sector has never been on the receiving end of such hard times between suffering Brexit, COVID-19 and now soaring fuel prices apparently brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but actually brought on by greedy Arab nations reduction their production output in order to drive up world prices.

In the ashes of a disastrous Brexit, the EU announced the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund of which Ireland was going to be the biggest benefactor receiving over €1bn. The IFSA says, “Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue made much fanfare of the 600 million euro that the Irish fishing and seafood industry was getting in EU / BAR compensation money to ease their fears.”

Instead of Irish fishermen receiving cash compensation for the slight-of-hand Trade and Cooperation Agreement negotiated by Michel Barnier, Ireland has substituted their monthly catch quota with a “Tie-Up Scheme”, and implemented a decommissioning scheme that would see the destruction of one-third of the Irish whitefish fleet, at a very cheap price indeed.

Outside of announcing some repairs to small piers and harbours, funds which the IFSA Chair says should have come from the Irish and EU Structural Funds and not BAR.

The IFSA Chair reprehends the Minister on his lack of action over fuel costs. He says:

“Throughout this period, Ireland’s marine minister was also the only EU fisheries minister to refuse to use any funds from any source (Irish or EU) to subsidise the rising cost of fuel for the Irish fleet and, to rub salt into this wound for fishermen, he went out of his way to tell the media that other EU nations were not paying their fishermen a fuel subsidy.”

But other EU Member States have been giving a fuel subsidy, for example France who have been giving their fishermen 20 cents on the litre.

The IFSA Chair then attacks the Minister’s compensation scheme for the pelagic sector. He says:

“Meanwhile it is reported that there is about to be a compensation payout to the Irish pelagic fleet but although this figure is in the millions of euros, it will barely cover the losses of the past two years never mind the billions that will be lost to the pelagic industry over the next decade alone.”

The IFSA has previously voiced its concerns over how the Minister and his Department are handling the BAR.

“Surely alarm bells will be going off in various sectors of Irish commercial industry with, as it would appear, just €389m of a figure available in excess of €800m means that some €411m (less the €150m that Ireland has transferred back to the ‘RePowerEU’ fund) leaving €261m that will have to be returned to the EU if it remains unused in three months’ time,” states the IFSA Chair.

He continues, “And, as far as the Irish fishing industry is concerned, this data raises many questions primarily of which should be what has happened to the €600m that the EU and Irish Government said would be going to the Irish fishing industry as it was the sector that had suffered and lost the most as a result of Brexit?”

This raises the question of what is happening within the Irish Government. Current Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has met with fishing industry representatives, who said that he showed concern. On the other hand, former Taoiseach and now Tánaiste, Michéal Martin treats the fishing industry like something he stepped in on the way through Phoenix Park. Then again, it’s difficult to imagine Martin walking anywhere now the government ministers have a fleet of electric cars that would make your eyes water.

So, who is taking the lead in the fight against the Irish fishing industry?

“It is of great concern that the figures issued by the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP and Reform do not even make a single reference to the fishing or marine sector – – therefore indicating that whatever came the way of this suffering industry came as part of the €271m allocated / spent in Agriculture,” notes the IFSA Chair.

The IFSA Chair concludes by issuing a warning to the industry. He says:

“Unless the Agriculture & Marine Minister comes clean on the real state of finances and unpaid compensation to the Irish fishing industry as a matter of urgency and admits that Ireland faces having to return millions in unused EU compensation allocations, Irish fishermen and processors are going to be left with a situation where not only have they lost a massive chunk of revenue but where they have also been swindled out of their EU compensation by mismanagement of this Government, an incompetent Minister and senior officials in many State departments.”

 

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