SINN Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on all political parties to unite behind a series of broad principles designed to protect our fishing industry, coastal communities and islands.
The Ireland South MEP, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, made the call at the launch of a fisheries rights charter in Castletownbere with county councillor Paul Hayes.
‘This document, which sets out 24 key points of action, is the work of numerous consultations within the fishing industry, with NGOs and with coastal communities,’ she said.
‘The guiding principles it contains are driven by the people who know this industry and these areas best; those who live and work in them. Nobody has more incentive to ensure that our oceans are managed ethically and sustainably than those whose lives and livelihoods rely on them.
‘Therefore I would hope that all political parties can get behind these principles and bear them in mind when it comes to dealing with our oceans, whether in negotiations in Brussels or debates in the Dáil.’
Ms Ní Riada claimed: ‘The Irish fishing industry and the coastal communities that it sustains have been badly let down by successive Irish governments and by the European Union. What could and should have been a vibrant and sustainable driver of growth in our national economy has been held back by bad policy and political neglect.
‘There is no overnight solution to the catalogue of wrongs done to fishermen and fishing communities, however I believe the first step in setting things to right is for policymakers to show respect to those involved in the industry and to our coastal and island communities, by listening to what they have to say.
‘Whether they are from the islands, Castletownbere, Dingle, Kilmore Quay, Rossaveal, Killybegs, Howth, Ard Glass, Kilkeel or Portavogie, Sinn Féin wants to work with all fishers to promote our fishing sector in a fair and equitable manner.
‘I would encourage everybody, particularly those who it most affects, to read this charter and to contact your local councillors, TDs, MLAs and MEPs and urge them to adopt these guiding principles for their own.’
Cllr Paul Hayes also endorsed the charter and called on the government to do more to protect coastal communities: ‘Castletownbere is not unique in feeling abandoned by the government,’ he said.
‘Coastal communities right around the country are all telling us the same story; that the only time the government pays any attention to our oceans is when they are selling them off.
‘Ireland needs a dedicated Minister for the Marine, someone who’s sole responsibility will be to protecting, promoting and sustaining our coastal economies and communities.’