IS&WFPO Chief, Patrick Murphy says that it is a crazy situation where the Minister isn’t creating a level-playing-pitch for Irish boats

 IS&WFPO Chief, Patrick Murphy says that it is a crazy situation where the Minister isn’t creating a level-playing-pitch for Irish boats

CEO of the Irish South &West Fish Producers Organisation IS&WFPO) Patrick Murphy has said that it is a crazy situation where the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, refuses to create a level playing field for Irish food producers while their EU neighbours are taking advantage of a fuel derogation granted by the Commission.

As EU neighbours in France and Spain have benefitted from a derogation given by to Commission which allows member states to subsidise fuel costs for their food producers that have been affected by the high cost or fuel oil due to the Russian invasion off Ukraine.

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Speaking to The Fishing Daily, Patrick said it is crazy the situation the goverment has let develop. He said, “We have pointed this out to the Minister, that this isn’t a level playing pitch that’s you cannot have fishing fleets in the same waters and one of them is getting their fuel at €0.35 a litre cheaper than another fleet fishing alongside them.

“It’s bad enough that they have more fish. It’s bad enough that they’re taking the fish back to their home markets and they have the advantage to sell the fish to their own people.”

Months on since the Commissions derogation and Minister McConalogue has related that he is assessing the situation, which Patrick Murphy believes is not good enough because the funds are there in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

“Here we are, months on and nothing happening, and the money still sitting in the account and the Minister not releasing the funds,” said the Irish South and West CEO.

“I don’t know why. I believe that will bear out in the next six months and I’ll tell you why, because surely be to God, the Minister, must have something else earmarked for this money, otherwise he has to give it back (to the EU). Now any minister of any government, of any country not to utilise the resources that are there to deal with a crisis.  That’s every other country is doing. Assessing it isn’t good enough to be honest.”

When the topic of a fuel subsidy has been brought up in the Dáil, both the Minister and the Taoiseach points to the funding vessels will draw down from the Voluntary Temporary Cessation Scheme, but this funding is from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, which the Government should not be using as a fuel subsidy under Commission regulations. Instead, the funding for a fuel subsidy has to come from either EMFF or the EMFAF.

When pushed on the question of a fuel subsidy, Minister McConalogue has replied that he is continuously assessing the situation, which many have come to believe means he is not prepared to do anything but wait until boat owners are forced into taking the Voluntary Permanent Cessation Scheme as recommended by his Seafood Sector Task Force.

Instead of Irish fishing being an important contributor to food security, the Irish government has been clecbrating its demise. Despite this lack of support from the government Irish fishing boats are struggling on, with boat owners desperately trying to keep crew from jumping ship into other industries.

Patrick says, “I’d say a lot of boats and our members are digging holes for themselves under the hope that this (fuel subsidy scheme) will be implemented, and that this money can pay off some of the bills that they’re accruing.

“I genuinely believe that because I know fellas are going out there fishing and they’re just not making money and they’re taking money from their own pockets to subsidise crews to try and keep their crews onboard to stay fishing. Otherwise, it’s game over.

“We need a minister that’s going to step up here and say, “Well, hang on a second, we’re going to use Article 26.2 that allows us to give this money” and it even has guidelines on how to do so and backdate it to the war.

“For us, you wouldn’t be talking €0.35 a litre We are saying that it might be around €0.20, or lower, per litre, but backdated to when the war started like you’re allowed, and this is all we’re asking of the Minister.”

Patrick says that if the €5.5 million in the EMFF isn’t enough then they should meet that bridge when they come to it because right now the industry needs it, and not alone the offshore whitefish fishing industry, but aquaculture and inshore fisheries.

He says the government must decide to put in measures to help primary food producers because food security is at risk.


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