This Irish fishing industry deserves answers to where the real government power lies demands the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance (IFSA)

This Irish fishing industry deserves answers to where the real government power lies demands the IFSA

“An anti-industry regime so ruthless and unsympathetic that it has earned these people the industry nickname of ‘civil serpents’ – a sad but fair indictment of the administration of the fishing industry in Ireland”, writes Cormac Burke, Chairman of the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA)

Following on from the recent IFSA editorial comment, ‘Basic rights – a thing of the past?’ and the reference therein to the ‘permanent government’ i.e. the civil servants who have ruled the fishing industry for the past 25 years regardless of what political party/parties are in power, it’s time we asked the question as to exactly who is ‘calling the shots’ in Ireland’s fishing & processing sectors.

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Fishermen all over Europe regularly ask their Irish counterparts why they are treated so badly in recent decades by their own government and why do they accept it? – but the only thing that Irish fishermen can be sure of is that the power over the industry is not, nor never has been, in the hands of the politicians but lies with the marine department’s civil servants – an anti-industry regime so ruthless and unsympathetic that it has earned these people the industry nickname of ‘civil serpents’ – a sad but fair indictment of the administration of the industry in Ireland.

People in this industry could list a very, very long catalogue of abuse of power by these people in their dealings with fishermen and processors over the years – from trumped up charges brought to court and then dismissed but leaving the innocent party with big legal fees – to the recent handling of Ireland’s share of the EU/Brexit BAR fund from which other nations paid out as actual compensation to its fishermen in all sectors but Ireland simply put conditions on it by making boats tie up and not earn a living so they could get the EU payments and using it in other ‘schemes’ i.e. which is NOT the monetary compensation in the form that all other EU Member States paid their marine industries.

From processors to fishermen operating in the inshore, demersal, and pelagic sectors, one would be hard pressed to find a single complimentary comment about the administrators of this industry – and yet, year after year and decade after decade, the strategic downward spiral of the Irish marine sector continues and always in the control of marine civil servants – less quota, fewer vessels, reduced employment and the eventual decimation of the socio economics of coastal communities.

It’s a well-known fact that Irish governments will rarely stand up to the EU on any matter, but surely they should at least have the gumption to take control back from their own civil service when a traditional Irish industry is being decimated by them?

This industry (and the IFSA) often blames whoever is minister at any given time, but the fact is that any Irish fisheries minister has no choice other than to ‘take the flak’ from the industry because, if he were to do otherwise, he would have to expose himself as in truth having no power whatsoever and that his every action is just doing what he’s told by his own department’s civil servants.

So this industry is wasting its time in even paying the marine minister the compliment in recognising him as a ‘senior political figure’ in the industry as he pretends to be in control of the situation when in fact he is nothing more than a front man for his senior department officials – those who never appear in public – those whose names never appear on new regulations – and those who never face the actual deckhands and factory workers whose lives they are destroying.

Breach of standards

However, our Government should not be allowed simply ‘get off’ with the excuse that they can’t break the civil service’ power of control – a brief read through the “Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour” ( www.sipo.ie ) reveals that “the mission of the Civil Service is the achievement of an excellent service for Government and the other institutions of State as well as for the public as citizens and users of public services, based on the principles of integrity, impartiality, effectiveness, equity and accountability”.

The Irish fishing industry would certainly dispute that these officials have operated “based on the principles of integrity, impartiality, effectiveness, equity and accountability” – indeed the word ‘accountability’ itself should raise questions as no Irish government of the past 20-odd years has held anyone in the Department of Marine accountable for any of its actions.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour states that it is “built on the principles as set out in ‘The Ombudsman’s Guide to Standards of Best Practice for Public Servants’ and, in Part 1, clearly states that civil servants must maintain the highest standards of probity by: “(a) conducting themselves with honesty, impartiality and integrity; (b) never seek to use improper influence, in particular never seeking to use political influence to affect decisions concerning their official positions; (c) must at all times avoid conflicts of interest.”

If, as everyone in this industry obviously already knows, that the current administration is in breach – on almost every level – of recommendations from the Ombudsman, then surely at the very least there is a case to be answered here.

And another statement of the Code of Practice states: “All civil servants should ensure that they deal with enquiries from members of the public in an open and helpful way and they should ensure that members of the public are dealt with in a respectful manner and have their affairs dealt with sympathetically, efficiently and promptly” – a statement that fishing industry folk would find funny if it were not so tragically untrue.

And for these people who are tasked to operate with “integrity, honesty and efficiency” the remunerations are generous:

Civil Service Salary Scales (data from www.forsa.ie)

General service grades: staff appointed after 6th April 1995 – Revision of salaries with effect from 1st October 2021 (unless otherwise stated).

Secretary general I (PPC) €213,859

Secretary general II (PPC) €213,859

Secretary general III (PPC) €202,604

Deputy secretary (PPC) €185,720

Assistant secretary (PPC) €143,845 – €150,381 / €157,467 – €164,549

Principal higher (PPC) €97,617 – €101,636 / €105,675 – €109,705 / €113,141 / LSI 1 €116,760 – LSI 2 €120,382

Principal (PPC) €90,702 – €94,550 / €98,370 – €102,218 / €105,463 / LSI 1 €108,829 – LSI 2 €112,191

Assistant principal higher (PPC) €76,510 – €79,421 / €82,338 – €85,253 / €88,169 – €89,872 / LSI 1 €92,765 – LSI 2 €95,665

Assistant principal (PPC) €69,709 – €72,268 / €74,871 – €77,483 / €80,090 – €81,593 / LSI 1 €84,225 – LSI 2 €86,865

With the above figures clearly showing that those enforcing draconian measures upon the industry take home a lot more money than the average fisherman or fish factory worker, then how can this be accepted as anything other than a corrupt system that needs investigating into by Government or the very basic requirement that the case be put in the hands of the Ombudsman.

This industry is demanding answers to these and many other questions.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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This Irish fishing industry deserves answers demands the IFSA

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