AS the shadow of Brexit looms, and the uncertainty around the future of our shared fishing grounds intensifies, the political implications for Ireland have come into sharp focus.
Our relationship with the European Union at local, national and international level is being seriously questioned. Nowhere are the stakes higher or matters more divisive than with our ocean resources.
The prospect of the UK leaving the Common Fisheries Area, coupled with the ecological threats from overfishing and climate change are causing massive worry around our coast. There is a growing realisation that we, as a nation, need to understand better and appreciate fully the 90% of our sovereign territory that is underwater – or pay the price for our ignorance.
Coinciding with the build-up to the British general election in June, the award-winning documentary Atlantic by Risteard Ó Domhnaill is bringing discussions of community, citizenship, ownership and responsibility of our ocean into classrooms and lecture theatres, reflecting issues arising not simply in student textbooks, but in the lives of ordinary men and women whose livelihoods are tied to the ocean.The strategy for this initiative is to enrich student engagement with topics that affect people and communities.
The successful run of Atlantic over the past year – with hundreds of screenings worldwide as well as numerous awards – attests to the capacity of this film to tell the stories of the people directly affected. Letting them share their personal journeys on the big screen enables audiences to empathise more with the experience of those living with the sea, with their perilous reality.
Directed by Risteard Ó Domhnaill (The Pipe, 2010), the thought-provoking documentary Atlantic lays bare the challenges and contradictions that coastal-dwellers and politicians face as we attempt to navigate a future filled with both immense possibility and dire pitfalls. Atlantic does not preach or seek to answer questions to which there is no simple answer. It does not demonise nor does it romanticise those whose interests collide on the high seas. Instead, Atlantic provides the observer with information and a gripping storyline to help them fully engage and take ownership of an issue that is the responsibility of every person in Ireland.
‘The greatest challenge to our society and to people who are seeing their communities disintegrate before their eyes is apathy,’ says Ó Domhnaill. ‘What Atlantic hopes to inspire is a belief that people can make a difference, a belief that, while politics is often flawed, we can take ownership of it and make it work.
‘One person can make a difference,’ he concluded.