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Sinn Féin demand Minister take Responsibility for Fisheries

27 March, 2008

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD today demanded that Minister Mary Coughlan take direct responsibility for the fishing sector. The Kerry North TD was responding to remarks made by the Minister at the official opening of the headquarters of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. Minister Coughlan said that the Authority will assume responsibility for the overall direction of the sector.

Deputy Ferris said: "While establishing such an authority is not necessarily a bad idea - especially if it involves closer co-operation with those directly involved in fishing - I would have a number of concerns. Firstly, it must be the direct responsibility of the relevant Government Department to ensure that a proper policy is in place. For years successive Irish Governments have abdicated that responsibility and allowed Brussels to enforce a regime that has prove disastrous to the Irish fishing sector.

"Secondly, I would be worried that the establishment of the Authority will simply allow the Minister to wash her hands of overall policy at a time of great change within the sector when many believe that the EU is planning to impose further curtailments on the Irish fleet through decommissioning and other restrictions. Indeed I have noticed that over the past number of months that almost any question relating to fishing has been rejected by the Minister's Department on the grounds that she no longer has responsibility for the sector since the establishment of the SFPA.

"This has meant that questions I have placed on behalf of fishermen, for example regarding illegal fishing by non Irish boats, have not been answered. So while an independent authority with real powers and a genuine commitment to supporting the interests of Irish fishermen against Brussels would be welcomed, it is certainly not acceptable that the Minister with statutory authority over the sector abdicate that responsibility by claiming to have nothing to do with serious issues effecting fishing." ENDS

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