SINN Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said the Government must demand fairer fishing quotas for Ireland post-Brexit and distribute those quotas more evenly.
The Ireland South MEP, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, made the comments as the largest fish processing plant in Connemara closed its doors, citing quotas as the main reason.
‘It’s disgraceful that in a country with one of the largest percentage of available fishing waters in the EU we have processing plants going out of business,’ she said.
‘This is not a question of resources, it’s a question of fair distribution of those resources.
‘Around 1.2 million tonnes of fish are caught annually in Irish waters yet only some 20 per cent of the total catch is allocated to us, the rest of the 80% usually goes abroad,’ she said.
‘Out of the 250,000 tonnes that goes to Irish vessels just 50,000 tonnes are actually processed in Ireland, and it is from processing where the value is added.
‘At the moment, the Irish industry is only processing around 5% of total catch in Irish waters. This is not only unacceptable but unsustainable, it will lead to the collapse of our indigenous fishing industry.’
Miss Ni Riada said the Government must stand up for Irish fishermen and demand a fairer quota for Ireland. ‘At the very least they must insist that boats which catch fish in Irish waters must process a certain percentage of them here in Ireland.
‘The days of boats coming into Irish waters, hoovering up fish and then heading back to their own countries, having contributed nothing to the Irish economy, must end.’
She said it was also important that this issue is not confused with or mixed up in the confusion of Brexit.
‘This is something the Government should have been demanding long before the 2016 vote. As a separate issue what they must be insisting is that post-Brexit, boats that are ejected from British waters cannot simply be shunted into already crowded Irish waters.
‘The industry is already at breaking point, the sudden injection of huge numbers of foreign boats will quite simply kill it.
‘It is up to the Irish Government as well, to ensure that when quotas are allocated to Ireland, that they are distributed fairly.
‘While I would of course congratulate and support Irish harbours that are thriving, their success should not come at the detriment of other, smaller harbours.’
She added that the closure of the processing plant in Ros a Mhíl, and the job losses and knock-on effect that will have on the local economy of the region, are the on-the-ground consequences of the Government’s refusal to implement a fairer distribution strategy.
‘We are an island nation on the edge of Europe, facing out into the Atlantic. Our fishing industry should be the envy of the continent. The fact it is on its knees is as damning an indictment of consecutive governments and their legacy of failure as it is possible to give,’ said the MEP.