BENEATH the civility of a business community welcoming a €48m investment in Dinish Wharf in Castletownbere, last Thursday, was the seething anger of fishermen badly affected by decommissioning.
Over the last 23 years, €116m has been spent on providing a deeply dredged channel, as well as a 400m quayside that can accommodate 100m vessels and two new breakwaters at Dinish Island – the region’s base of operations for a variety of maritime businesses.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue claimed the investment ‘demonstrates the importance this Government places on safeguarding the future of our fisheries dependent coastal communities’.
John Nolan, the manager of the Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op, welcomed the investment and the work done by Sorenson Civil Engineering.
‘It is easy to be negative and look inwards, but this can be viewed as an opportunity to consider putting in a small boat harbour within it, and developing other businesses,’ he told The Southern Star.
The co-op manager believes Castletownbere – like Dingle, which lost out on fishing – will have to diversify and ‘Beara will have to develop as a tourist destination’.
He also expressed anger at the fact the co-op’s average annual turnover of €65m has dropped by €20m after 15 local boats left the organisation through decommissioning.
‘In simple mathematics, that represents a €5m loss to the local community in revenue and money that would be spent locally,’ he said.
Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (ISWFPO) described the minister’s visit as ‘a sad day’ for Castletownbere, claiming that the €48m wharf would only facilitate the landing of Spanish and French boats.
The ISWFPO chief executive, who is also standing as an MEP candidate for Aontú in the Ireland South constituency , called on the minister to ‘consider his position’.
Mr Murphy accused an indifferent political class of giving away 25% of Ireland’s fish to the UK in the Brexit Trade and Co-operation agreement, which culminated in ‘the deplorable act of scrapping local, family-owned trawlers’.
Donal Kelly of Fast Fish Ltd said the pier extension will not be of any major benefit to Irish fishermen because their days are ‘numbered’. ‘But it probably will be of benefit to the area for our offshore wind energy, which we are promised is going to come,’ he said.
While welcoming the ‘huge investment’, Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) said quota increases will be necessary if the fishing industry is to survive, especially if Iceland is to be allowed fish for blue whiting off the west coast.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said decommissioning doesn’t just affect fishing, but reduces revenue in local businesses and depresses the economic life of the Beara peninsula.