There’s something fishy going on

An inside look at local politics – from the pens of the politicians themselves

Any port in a storm — Minister O Cuiv and Deputy Fahey pictured in happier times.

Any port in a storm — Minister O Cuiv and Deputy Fahey pictured in happier times.

The dogs in the street know there is no love lost between Minister Éamon Ó Cuív and Dep Frank Fahey TD, but at a meeting last year in Ros a’Mhíl even the fish in the sea got wind of the animosity when local FFers feared blows might be exchanged between the two heavy hitters.

Apparently it all has to do with the much-needed deep-sea port on the west coast. A deep-sea port at Ros a’ Mhíl has been a local demand for years as larger Irish boats cannot enter the harbour. The problem has been compounded by Irish governments allocating most of our EU fish quotas to the much larger vessels.

As a consequence the local fish processing plant is struggling to survive. Indeed, the lack of the deep-sea port has resulted in the bizarre situation where large Irish boats land their mackerel catches not in Ireland but in Norway, which is not in the EU.

As Minister for the Marine, Frank Fahey had proposed a deep-sea port for Ros a’Mhíl. Minister Ó Cuív vehemently disagrees. He thinks there should be two: one in the city to cater for the much awaited cruise liners and another in Ros a’Mhíl.

At a time when the Government is only dishing out dosh to bankers and developers it seems an absurd demand. Besides Ros a’Mhíl could cater for both fishing and liners. It is a more natural port and would be a much cheaper project based on land costs alone. And if the tourists ever do arrive, they can see the Connemara landscape and then the city.

Strangely, Minister Ó Cuív has already spent €45 million on a new harbour in Kilronan, Inis Mór, that won’t add one extra sprat to our fishing industry or indeed one extra visitor to the island. Half of that sum would go a long way to building the port at Ros a’ Mhíl. So what’s up with Ó Cuív?

When this question was posed on Raidió na Gaeltachta the veteran broadcaster and socialist councillor Seosamh Ó Cuaig responded: “You would need to have a senior counsel and a theologian beside you to interpret the Minister’s utterances. He’s an expert at mental reservation.”

Even more perverse, this squabbling continues as Brussels issued a Green Paper on the ‘reform’ of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Although it is the CFP that has destroyed our fishing industry there is complete silence from Messrs Ó Cuív and Fahey and all of the political parties.

Only one Irish political organisation has submitted proposals to reform the CFP and that is the People’s Movement (www.people.ie ), which has two Galway patrons - Cllr Catherine Connolly and Cllr Seosamh Ó Cuaig.

Let Trevor Sargent of the Greens – speaking in the Dáil before his party sold out - remind us what the CFP actually means in financial terms: “The reality is that fish worth €2,500 million are taken from Irish waters by EU boats every year. Ireland's share is only €127 million. Ireland has 16 per cent of EU waters and only four per cent of the EU quota. In effect, this country is giving €2,400 million in what could be called structural aid to our EU partners every year.”

The People’s Movement’s paper shows there was no fisheries policy in the Treaty of Rome, the foundation stone of the EEC. It only became urgent when Ireland, Denmark, Britain, and Norway - with the richest best conserved fishing grounds in Europe - began entry negotiations.

In 1971, the six founding EEC countries rushed through fishery regulations giving all members “equal access”. Fish was to be a “common resource” - the only one! The FF Government realised the dreadful consequences for our fishing industry and deliberately misled the people.

The CFP has also been a disaster for fish conservation: 88 per cent of EU fishing stocks have been fished beyond their maximum sustainable yield. Norway did not join the EEC and today continues to boast a very healthy fishing stock. The over-centralised CFP has proved a failure.

One example is the issue of “discards”. Brussels doles out quotas for the catching of specific species of fish. Any fisherman knows a net has not been invented that can catch only one species of fish. In order to avoid heavy penalties fishermen must discard the fish for which they do not have a quota. These fish are dead when discarded – resulting in 600,000 tons of fish being lost through discards each year.

What needs to be discarded is the CFP and our rights to this natural resource repatriated. This would be a boost for conservation and to our economy. The scrapping of the CFP could prove beneficial for developing countries too.

Under the CFP the EU forces deals on developing countries allowing European monster factory ships to empty their seas of fish. Today’s Somali pirate is yesterday’s Somali fisherman.

In private and in the right company Minister Ó Cuív will expound about the iniquities of the CFP. It’s about time he brought these views into the public domain and to the Cabinet table.

 

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