THE use of armed gardai to carry out raids on fishing trawlers in Castletownbere last week is the subject of a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman.
Shortly after the search for illegal immigrant workers took place, Francis O’Donnell, head of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), filed a complaint regarding the ‘disproportionate’ use of force to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.
Mr O’Donnell said the use of machine guns and Alsatian dogs during the course of the search was ‘an unprecedented level of force’ and that the complaint was being lodged on behalf of his own members and ‘the entire Irish fishing industry’.
The CEO of the IFPO said the use of armed gardai had ‘degraded us all ... especially vessel owners and their families.’
He said he was bewildered at the approach taken by the State and that such a deployment ‘ought to be in situations of potential for loss of life, or physical violence, and that was certainly not the case here.’
The IFPO is urging any of its members who felt that they were ‘put in fear’ or ‘upset’ by what they witnessed on October 5th to consider issuing proceedings for compensation or assault.
Mr O’Donnell told The Southern Star that the IFPO is seeking to have the issue raised in the Dáil and that they have requested a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Macroom native Michael Creed TD.
This newspaper contacted the Minister’s office and spokesperson for the Minister said he could not confirm when the meeting would take place.
‘As a community,’ the IFPO chief said, ‘we are entitled to be treated with respect and not as if we are participants in some sort of organised criminal gang. The State, by their actions have, in my opinion, brought our industry to the lowest possible level.’
The manager of Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op, John Nolan added: ‘The question we should be asking here is: if the police force of New York raided apartments with machine guns and dogs searching for undocumented Irish people, how would we feel? The gardai themselves were only carrying out instructions. You wonder – with limited resources – if they couldn’t be better utilised.’
He added: ‘As an organisation, we would also be interested in finding out who issued the instructions to warrant a raid of that kind.’
Meanwhile, an inshore crew from Castletownbere have claimed they escaped being run down by a larger uncontrolled fishing vessel last weekend.
The crew of the inshore potter Celtic Dawn say they had a close call on Sunday morning, October 9th, when a Spanish vessel ignored international nautical rules and came within a few metres of them.
They were hauling their pots at the time and had right of way, which should have resulted in the larger Spanish boat giving them a wide berth. They believe the Spanish had nobody on watch, or else a crewman asleep at the helm, at the time.
They did, however, observe someone in the wheelhouse as the other boat passed astern, but no action to avoid the Irish boat was taken.