Minister McConalogue continues to champion penalty points system his party considered a serious infringement in 2018
Represenatatives from the Irish fishing industry met with Minister Charlie McConalogue yesterday to voice their concers in regards to the new penalty points system introduced under S.I 318 of 2020.
Industry representatives attended from the four Fishermen’s Producer Organisations; the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation, the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation and the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, along with the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association and the National Inshore Fishermen’s Forum.
The Irish fishing industry is concerned about the draconian nature of the penalty points system and had asked the Minister to reconsider sections of the statutory instrument.
Minister McConalogue previously was party to voting down the same piece of legislation (then S.I 89 of 2018) when his party, Fianna Fáil, were in opposition but yesterday he told fishery representatives that he remained firmly behind the legislation even though the procedure of applying penalty points was found by the Supreme Court to be unjust and unfair.
On 17/04/2018 Fianna Fáil wrote on their website:
“Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on the Marine & Fisheries Pat the Cope Gallagher has tabled a motion on behalf of his party to rescind the recently published Statutory Instrument (SI) No 89 0f 2018 – which was set to introduce a penalty point system for fishing infringements.”
In the article Mr Gallagher says it is …“essential that any new points system for fishing infringement must work within the remit of the Irish courts.
“The statutory Instrument placed before the Dáil by Minister Creed seriously undermines the rights of individual fishermen and vessel owners throughout the country, and it bizarrely bypasses both the Circuit and District Courts by establishing a new structure which is answerable to no one other than the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority.
“Despite being strongly directed by the Supreme Court, the government has failed to provide for the right of appeal to the individual, to deal adequately with the onus of the burden of proof, or to separate the powers and independence of the SFPA and the processes which will determine whether an infringement has occurred or not.
“Furthermore, in line with the previous SIs, the fishermen and vessel owners were being treated as guilty parties from the outset – with the burden of proof being placed on them to prove their innocence as opposed to the state making a case against them, and more worrying than that, was the fact that penalty points would remain on the licence of the vessel owners, even if they had been successful in their appeal. This was an issue that was highlighted by the Supreme Court previously.
“We have serious reservations regarding this piece of secondary legislation, especially given the fact that the Supreme Court has already twice expressed its reservations on this matter. It appears the Government has failed to address the issues raised in the Irish Courts and the latest SI repeats the errors of previous pieces of legislation.”
In the article Mr Gallagher concluded by saying ““I am determined that this SI will not see the light of day.”
After the meeting John Ward from the Irish Fish Producers Organisation said:
“Charlie Mc Conologue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine met with fishing organisations today and refused to address their concerns on Penalty Points.
It is a disappointing day for fishing communities around the coast when the Minister whose party, Fianna Fail supported the Industry position in opposition and voted down the previous S.I. and now back government ignore their principles. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.
“It is a disappointing day for fishing communities around the coast when the Minister whose party, Fianna Fail supported the Industry position in opposition and voted down the previous S.I. and now back government ignore their principles. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.”
The meeting also saw the Minister discuss the current situation on Brexit.
In their post-meeting press release he Department said:
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D., met today with representatives of the Irish fishing industry to reconfirm the Government’s commitment to a Fisheries Agreement with the UK that protects Ireland’s fishing industry. Industry representatives attended from the four Fishermen’s Producer Organisations (the Killybegs Fishermen’s Producer Organisation, the Irish South and East Fish Producer Organisation, the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation and the Irish Fish Producers Organisation), the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association and the National Inshore Fisherman’s Forum.
Fishing industry representatives explained the very serious implications for the Irish fishing industry and our coastal communities of no fisheries agreement with the UK or any fisheries agreement which grants the UK’s demands for a greater share of fish stocks and restricted access to UK fishing grounds. The Minister listened carefully to the concerns expressed by industry representatives and reiterated Ireland’s position that he would continue to “press for a fisheries agreement with the UK that protects the mandate and upholds both existing quota shares and existing reciprocal access to UK waters.” He also re-acknowledged the importance of any fisheries agreement maintaining the link to any future trade agreement.
The Minister especially welcomed the strong message from the fishing industry that unity and cooperation among the domestic fishing industry, the Member States and the European institutions is key at this critical juncture.
The Minister also listened to industry concerns regarding the Statutory Instrument on points for the serious infringement of the Common Fisheries Policy. The Minister explained Ireland’s position and noted the commitment of all to effective controls to protect the valuable fishing resources in Ireland’s 200 miles zone and the need for the country to meet its EU obligations in the area.
Commenting afterwards on the meeting, Minister McConalogue said “I was very glad to have the opportunity today to meet with the fishing industry representatives. We had a very useful exchange on the challenges for the sector posed by the UK’s exit from the EU and the Statutory Instrument on Points. I intend to continue this close engagement with the fishing industry going forward.”