Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Martin Ferris speaks on motion 128

21 February, 2009 - by Martin Ferris TD

As the motion points out, Irish fishermen and their communities are at a massive disadvantage because of the manner in which our fisheries are run from Brussels.

I say our fisheries although in reality the Irish state surrendered control over them during the scandalous deal which it made during the negotiations to join the EU in 1973. Since then and despite the so-called Hague Preferences which were supposed to redress the imbalance in quota allocation, we have since has fish valued at up to €200 billion taken from our waters. And even that does not take into account the scale of illegal fishing that still takes place.

So for all the talk about how much we owe to Brussels as a means of brow beating us into supporting greater and greater centralisation of power, we have given up far more in the value of fish to other EU fleets than we have gained in direct payments, subsidies and structural funds.

Of course that is not all the fault of the EU. No Irish Government since the foundation of the state has invested any resources or energy into developing our fisheries which in terms of processing, employment and exports could have become a significant economic sector.

And not alone have fishermen had to put up with the unfair quota system but they are also being targeted by Brussels and the authorities here in a manner that many believe criminalises fishermen but is also designed to force them to give up fishing.

As the statistics in the motion show, Irish fishermen are subject to a level of surveillance and inspection way out of proportion to their share of the Irish fisheries and indeed it has been admitted by the protection authorities here that they have little or no power over non Irish vessels.

It is crucial therefore if the Irish fishery is to be saved for the future that we retake control over our own waters. That can only be done if an Irish Government insists on the renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy and if such a renegotiation redresses the imbalance in quota allocation and gives an Irish Government control over the key issues affecting the sector.

If that is not done and if the current policies continue to be applied, we may well be witnessing the effective death of the Irish fishing industry.

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