A STANDALONE Minister for Fisheries is needed if the industry is to be properly represented, according to West Cork TD, Michael Collins.
‘Not since Ireland joined the EEC has the need for a dedicated Minister for Fisheries been more pressing,’ he said.
Regardless of a ‘deal or no deal’ Brexit, the independent TD said a minister is needed to protect businesses and jobs in West Cork’s coastal communities.
Claiming that the rights of fishermen are being eroded year after year, Deputy Collins said: ‘We have reached a point where Irish fishermen and women are being treated as second-class citizens.’
He alleged that successive EU fishing regulations have effectively criminalised the profession and the situation has reached a point where those involved the industry ‘no longer have any faith in the political system in this country.’
With Brexit looming, he said industry representatives have expressed their concerns that ‘if there are any concessions to be given, in any negotiations, the rights of Irish fishermen will be given away every time.’
The TD said he had in his possession a video purporting to show an Irish trawler being forced out of Irish waters by a Spanish vessel – a scenario that he described as ‘troubling and all too frequent.’
Speaking to The Southern Star after he raised the issue during Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, Deputy Collins said: ‘It would take weeks to list all the problems these fishing communities have to face on a daily basis, but there is very little being done to help them.’
He cited one example whereby inshore fishermen are pleading for a cull on seals because they are causing havoc with their catches.
The increase in storm activity is also taking its toll and the TD said fishermen, like farmers, need a compensation fund to offset their serious losses.
Deputy Collins maintained there is only one way that this Government can demonstrate that it is serious about the fishing industry and that is to appoint a dedicated Minister for Fisheries and the Marine to protect the industry and West Cork’s fishing communities.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South West, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has called for the formation of ‘a forum’, which would assemble everyone involved in the marine sector, to prepare for Brexit.
With less than 60-days to go until the March 29th deadline for Brexit, she said: ‘We, as a country, need a clear and well-defined plan for the entire marine sector.’