Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney has had no engagement on Rockall for over three months with his Scottish counterpart

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney has had no engagement on Rockall for over three months with his Scottish counterpart

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney has admitted that he has not engaged for over three months with his Scottish counterpart on the issue of the 12 nautical mile limit around Rockall.

Irish fishing vessels have now been locked out of their traditional fishing grounds since 01 January 2021, when the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into effect.

Irish fishing vessels and in particular vessels in Donegal rely heavily on the fishing around the uninhabited rock situated approximately 423km from Ireland. On average, pre-Brexit, Greencastle’s demersal trawlers relied on the fisheries inside the limit for around 40% of their income.

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The Scottish exclusion zone around Rockall has meant the displacement of Irish vessels onto other grounds, which is putting pressure on stocks in these areas. Irish boats relied on the squid fishery, a non-quota species, but since the Trade and Cooperation Agreement they have been denied access to this traditional fishery.

The issue of Rockall was raised by the fisheries delegation that met with DG MARE in Brussels at the end of May last. Greencastle boat owners and fishermen, Cara Rawdon and Frank McClellaghan raised the issue but was told that the resolution lay in the hands of the Irish government.

Sinn Féin Deputy and Fisheries Spokesperson, Padraig Mac Lochlainn raised the issue with the Minister Coveney in a written question:

“To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of negotiations with both the UK and Scottish governments on restoring access for Irish fishermen to the waters around Rockall; and when he last personally spoke to his counterparts in both governments on this matter.”

The Minister replied:

“I continue to work closely with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to address the issues related to Rockall, reflecting the longstanding fisheries tradition in the area.

I have outlined Ireland’s position on Rockall and considered possible ways forward in contacts with the UK and Scottish Governments over the course of the past year.

I last met with my Scottish counterpart, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson on 9 March and we discussed this issue. We agreed to continue to prioritise this matter and to work together to seek to resolve outstanding issues. He reiterated this commitment in recent correspondence, and our respective officials are in ongoing contact.  

Our officials also remain in ongoing contact with the European Commission on all matters relating to the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, including fisheries.

Through these engagements, the Government is seeking to address the issues involved, reflecting longstanding fisheries patterns in the area.

The Government’s position in relation to territorial claims on Rockall is consistent and longstanding Irish Government policy.”

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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No engagement with Scottish government over Rockall for three months

by editor time to read: 6 min