Donegal Priest, Father John Joe Duffy has slammed the Irish Government for bringing home a tin of sardines instead of a proper fisheries deal

Donegal Priest, Father John Joe Duffy has slammed the Irish Government for bringing home a tin of sardines instead of a proper fisheries deal

The Irish Government negotiated with EU partners for a Fisheries Deal but came home with a tin of sardines writes Donegal based priest Fr John Joe Duffy, C.C. 

As the true fallout of what history will call the “greatest sell-out “by any Irish Government of a sector and a natural resource, it is clear that the mackerel scales were well and truly pulled over the eyes of Irish politicians, as they gladly left Michel Barnier alone in the wheelhouse of the EU UK Brexit negotiations – the cunning Franco German axis fed the Irish Fishermen to the sharks. 

Were the Irish Government aware of the scale of the savage cuts for the Irish fishing fleet relative to the other coastal countries of the EU? Did they realize Ireland was suffering in the negotiations or going to have to carry 25% of the cost of the entire deal to the EU, with the remaining 10 coastal states taking the remaining cuts.  

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Did the Ministers for Marine and Foreign Affairs and their officials comprehend in making the agreement that they were going to drastically decrease, savagely cut the Irish fishing fleet capacity by 25% to 30%with immediate effect, with more to follow in 2026?  

If the Government and the Department officials were aware of this 25% cut hitting Ireland with worse to come in 2026, did the Government consider the lodging of an official objection on the fisheries component of the Brexit deal based on the principal that fisheries and trade access were to be intrinsically linked as set out in the EU preamble to the talks? 

Since no official objection was lodged, was it that the Minister for Marine was not allowed to lodge an official objection?  If he was not allowed to lodge an official objection, who was responsible for that? Who was advising the Minister for Marine? 

Did the Irish Government and their officials raise the issue on the disastrous fisheries deal for Ireland before the Agreement was consented to by the Irish State the principal of burden sharing between the EU Coastal states similar to the Hague principals of the sharing mechanism that is part of the annual share out of fish quotas between member states of the EU. Was there any attempt to put into play a mechanism based on the Hague Principals? 

Did the Irish Government not identify within the detail of the agreement that the Dutch and French had a special arrangement for the North Sea, with a fraction of the severity of the cuts the Irish were being subjected to…. 

The Taoiseach and the Minsters for Marine and Foreign affairs heralded this as a good deal for fisheries and the Irish fishing fleet. After 20 days of silence and a might storm brewing form the fishing and coastal communities the Minister for Maine now seem to have found their paddles and are furiously attempting to row against a heavy current back to the Port of the EU Brexit negotiation table that has the harbour gates locked and which the mighty ships of the EU have left and have steamed right through and over our inept Irish negotiators. 

Now, we hear over the last week that the much heralded 34 million cut is now £43 million and the true coast to coastal communities will likely be between closer to £85 million p.a. in real terms. We heard of a good deal from the Government, now it is a bad deal they say, what an oxymoron. 

The Irish ship was in deep waters at the British negotiations and had no one in the Wheelhouse other than Michel Barnier as the Dutch, the Spanish and the French several other countries of the EU were plotting the course and fuelling the engines and kept our team of negotiators the sight-seeing observers on board in the cabins and far away from the wheelhouse, while the Irish fish was being thrown overboard to the British fleet. 

And no matter how much they now try to row their little row boat back against an ebbing tide they will not get back to the port of the Brexit negotiations because that mighty ship sailed right out of Port and has taken whatever they wanted of the Irish fleet and of Ireland’s quota within UK waters now given away to appease Germany, Denmark, France, Spain and the Dutch. Our rights to harvest her natural fish resources that have spawned off the West Coast of Ireland thrown overboard by our inexperienced and inept crew who failed to shout stop the Irish skipper and Crew who even thought they had done well until 20 days later when the raging waters waked them from their slumber of their sleep. 

The long-term impact will only be fully known post 2026. The only safeguard that protected us from larger than the25 to 30% of cuts and the total annihilation of the capacity of the Irish fleet in the medium term was the reality that the British fleet is underdeveloped and has not the capacity and therefore had no the capability of catching any more fish than the drastic amount acceded to them at our great cost in this round of negotiations. Is there anyone who can now say that they will not have more capacity, a lot more capacity to take more Irish fish and further destroy the capacity of the Irish fishing fleet and Total allowable Irish Catch by 2026, when the very real and even more dire consequences of this disastrous deal will have for Irish fishing and her coastal communities. 

The fact of the matter was that Scottish and British fishermen were not lobbying for increases to the Mackerel quotas to the extent they were given.  The UK fishermen were negotiating more for a greater allocation of North Sea herring over mackerel. Despite the UK expectations of a huge pay back of North Sea herring, somewhere in the region of 100,000 tons, a species which is almost exclusively fished in UK waters, they were given a mere payback of 17,000 tons of North Sea herring. Instead, the UK were given Mackerel which was not their preferred option in the total quantities from the following countries as follows Belgium 309 tons @ a value of €142k Spain 850 tons @ €750k France 7545 tons @ €6.9 m Denmark 10,753 tons €5.29 m Netherlands 17,651 tons € 15.52 m Ireland 23,496 tons €27.781 m. 

The total losses of the Brexit negotiations fisheries deal for the coastal EU states is as follows up to 2026, Belgium -7%, Germany -15%, Denmark -7%, Spain -4%, France -8%, Ireland -15%. Netherlands -10%, Others -3%. 

The value of the German Loss in real terms is €21 million and the Irish loss is now standing € 43 million and may yet be as high as €85 million to the fishing industry and coastal communities as a whole. 

It is very clear that the French, Spanish Dutch, Danish and German politicians very much protected their own national interests in the Brexit negotiations. The Dutch mega Factory ships catching large amounts of mackerel and Herrings were protected in the negotiations as were their super rich owners have massive influence in the heart of the EU bureaucratic policy machine. The French and Spanish were protected. The Danish and Germans had their herring in the North Sea protected at the expense of both Ireland and the Scottish and British fleet. These other countries that have much greater quotas pro rata to Ireland for blue whiting, herring, horse mackerel and mackerel and have these quotas protected year on year for these countries as we have seen in the Brexit negotiations. 

I am amused to see that it took 20 days after the so called “ good deal” for Irish fisheries for the Irish Government to find it’s VOICE but sadly very late and far too late, when the ball has been taken of the field and the savage out-manoeuvring of the French guillotine, the Spanish and Dutch knives have cut it to shreds in the Brexit negotiations when our Irish Government were in their cabins as the Irish ship was skippered by others to now realise now it was the worst possible deal of all time for this country, Ireland’s fishing fleet and an outright disaster of our coastal communities.  

Our Ministers and Government on Christmas Eve were much like Neville Chamberlain in 1938 who came back from Hitler waving his piece of paper declaring peace in our time, an empty formula, the disastrous Brexit deal is now becoming clearer the claims of a good deal on Christmas Eve are as unreal as were Chamberlains. The horse has now bolted and Ireland came last by several lengths in the Brexit negotiations race and the Christmas Star which shone for the first time in 400 years on Christmas Eve and gave great light, now the light has been snuffed out for Irish Fishermen and there no stars to be given for the disastrous negotiations for Irish fishing. 

In conclusion this deal, as the Government claims was a good deal for Irish Fishermen, a deal which they made not realising perhaps the true value of the Marine sector to the Irish state, but if this deal was as good as the Taoiseach claims – then why are they now hoping to renegotiate it…. and the fact that they are dispatching Minister McConalogue all across EU coastal states looking for our fish back says it all about this Government – weak, inept and hopeless and not fit for purpose. 

Minister brought home a tin of sardines from fisheries negotiations

by editor time to read: 11 min