FISHERMEN, fisherwomen and the fishing industry in general have been the poor relation in Irish politics, independent Deputy Michael Collins told the DÃ¡il.
He told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that the British wanted a hard Brexit in terms of the fishing industry. âThey want Irish trawlers out of British waters, in which up until now we have fished 60% of our mackerel stock and 40% of our prawn stock,' he said. âAlso, European trawlers will have to exit British waters. The Taoiseach knows well to where they will turn when this happens: straight into Irish waters. In recent years, some â¬2.5 million worth of Irish fish has left the port of Castletownbere alone weekly in foreign vessels for Spain.'
What was most worrying, he said, was that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine accepted that the Government had no plan B. âIn all honesty, it has no plan A or plan B for Irish fishermen and governments have not had for many years,' he said.
âThe Taoiseach has a unique opportunity to be different from his predecessors in respect of the fishing industry,' he said. âHow does he intend to deal with the announcement made by the British?'
In response, the Taoiseach said, as noted by Michel Barnier, the UK decision to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention does not trigger any immediate change. âHe is now focused on prioritising the fisheries interests of the EU 27.Â
âThe Minister, Deputy Creed, and his Department have been working closely with their counterparts in other EU member states that have a particular interest in the north-west waters. A unified front on these matters and a united negotiating position by all of these countries is what is best for Ireland and the EU.Â
âIf there is additional quota, we will strive to ensure that Ireland gets a fair share of it, bearing in mind sustainability. Fisheries stocks all around the world, particularly around Europe, have been horrendously depleted in the last number of decades due to over-fishing.Â
âIt is not in any of our interests in the long term that that should continue, for all the obvious reasons.'