A WEST Cork councillor is calling for the establishment of a standalone Fisheries and Marine Department because he feels that fishermen have become the ‘poor relation’ in Irish politics.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) raised the motion at a meeting of the local authority last week and said the current Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine should be abolished and that two separate departments – one for Agriculture and Food and one for Fisheries and Marine – be set up.
‘Negotiations on Brexit are ongoing at present and organisations like the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisations have been stressing the huge importance of our fishing industry to this country,’ said Cllr Collins.
‘Also others have highlighted that foreign vessels who are in UK waters at present will have to exit those waters and it is widely believed there is only one place there are going and this is into Irish seas, which are flooded with foreign vessels already.
Cllr Collins said they are fully aware of the Spanish trucks coming to Castletownbere daily taking thousands of tonnes of fish from Irish seas from foreign vessels back to their country.
‘Whether it’s the Irish fisherman out in trawlers or the local inshore fisherman, they all know they are no longer a priority with this Irish government. If this council can unite today in our call for a standalone Ministry for the Marine it will send a strong message not alone to this Government but it will send a message across Europe that we see the importance of the fishing industry is to this country.’
Cllr Collins added that he believes that such a ministerial post would work harder with towns and village committees along the coastline in helping them expand on the marine leisure side of things, which in turn would increase tourism in coastal areas.Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) agreed that fisheries has always been a poor relation and said it now needs a bigger focus with the implications of Brexit down the road. However, Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said fishing and agriculture are intrinsically linked together and that ‘both are part and parcel of the food chain.’
Cllr Timmy Collins (Ind) said that the workload for any one Minister is too much and agreed that the posts should be separated and expressed surprised that any government could put such a workload on a minister.
County mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) also agreed and said that Fisheries gets lost in the huge portfolio and he would welcome any opportunity to highlight the industry.