Under the new Brexit regulations, fishermen have been informed that UK boats are not allowed to use any services or amenities in any other port in the Republic, thus creating concern for boatyards, boat repairers and other services suppliers to the marine industry.
Speaking on today’s Nine Til Noon Show, local fisherman Liam O’Brien described the current situation in Greencastle. He said, “It’s basically going to be a nightmare … it’s all up in the air. I think this has caused a wide division between the fishing communities north and south and it’s causing a large concern with boats here on the northwest coast.”
The proximity and facilities at Greencastle has attracted Northern Ireland fishermen for many years and the situation with Lough Foyle belonging to the UK means that Northern Ireland boats have unrestricted rights to enter the harbour and still be in UK waters. Liam says, “If I was sitting in the harbour in my boat, I would be in UK waters but when I step up onto the pier I am in Ireland.”
Liam told Nil Til Noon presenter Greg Hughes, that since the Good Friday Agreement the fishermen of Greencastle has experienced a good relationship with their Northern Ireland counterparts but since the news of the SFPA notice, it has undermined the camaraderie.
Liam said that many fishermen in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK are concerned and that they haven’t been able to get answers for who is responsible for making the decision to stop Northern Irish fishing vessels from using the harbour. The only thing they have heard so far is that it’s “non-negotiable.”
On the issue, the Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue said:
“I have talked with a lot of the fishermen concerned and I am liaising with the Department in relation to teasing out the issue exactly and what possibilities there would be in relation to addressing the situation.
“It is not straight forward, and it does require to be going to a port for a non-EU vessel to land, it does require for that port to be designated in terms of SFPA staffing and infrastructure around that as well. So, it’s not straight forward but it is certainly I am very much aware of it and the implications for those affected by having Northern Irish registered boats.”
On the solution to the problem, the Minister said “It’s not clear yet. I’m examining exactly what the potential might be. Until that is clear, I can’t say what it might look like.”
“Up until Christmas Eve, if there hadn’t been a Brexit deal, in terms of the vessels we are talking about here and the numbers are not quite clear as they are Northern Ireland registered and are not on the Irish registration records but up until Christmas Eve access to Irish waters would have been blocked-off.”