THE safety of fishermen in Schull is being put in jeopardy, according to Social Democrat Cllr Ross O’Connell.
‘We all love to see people visiting the area each summer, but Schull Pier is being treated more like a drive-through promenade than an actual working pier during the summer months,’ the councillor stated at a recent meeting of West Cork Municipal District.
‘It is unsafe and completely unnecessary when you consider there are lovely walks to the north and south of the pier, and it presents a dangerous working environment for the fishermen,’ he added.
Although there is a sign on the pier warning of the existence of various by-laws, the councillor said, ‘It goes unnoticed and unenforced.’
As long as people are running on the pier, driving up and down the pier, and jumping off it, fishermen will be forced to work around these hazards, he said.
Photographs demonstrating how people are parking directly over faded yellow lines were produced and Cllr O’Connell also showed how fishermen have no choice but to unload their catch by climbing over other boats tied up at the pier.
‘Fishing is regarded as the most dangerous industry to work in, followed by construction, but on a construction site at least there is a site office, people use PPE and workers have to have completed a safe pass,’ said Cllr O’Connell.
Other busy fishing ports – such as Union Hall and Baltimore – successfully combine commercial fishing with the leisure industry, he added. But for that to work in Schull, he suggested fishermen should be given priority parking on the pier.
The impact this is having on the local fishing industry cannot be underestimated, he said. It has already pushed larger boat owners to operate out of Union Hall and Castletownbere.
‘There are still seven inshore fishing boats working out of Schull, and just because they are outnumbered by the vast swathes of visitors coming to the town each year, this does not mean that they should not be prioritised, or ignored,’ said Cllr O’Connell, who urged the Council to do everything it can to protect their livelihood.
Failure to deal with the problems at the pier – namely the fact that it is choked up with camper vans, jeeps and cars – not only causes an obstruction, he said, it also puts people’s lives at risk, particularly children who might not be aware of the danger of playing on a working pier.