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Taoiseach and ministers must confirm that fish farm licensing regime is above reproach

9 October, 2014

Sinn Féin is calling on the Taoiseach, Minister for Fisheries Simon Coveney and newly-appointed Minister of State Joe McHugh to clarify their role in relation to the development of a contentious mega fish farm proposal in Galway Bay after it was revealed that they had met senior management of the Marine Harvest company.

The project was discussed at a meeting in Government Buildings between the Taoiseach and the ministers and the Chief Executive and senior management from the company. Questions have been asked as to the appropriateness of such a meeting when Minister Coveney and the government have a central role in adjudicating on the licensing process.

Sinn Féin Marine spokespersons Martin Ferris TD and Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh are calling on the Taoiseach and his ministers to reveal what was discussed at the meeting with Marine Harvest on January 30th and what understanding they gave the Norwegian company about the development of the industry in Ireland?

They say:

“There cannot be any sense of large industry players influencing government policy on aquaculture matters. We must ensure that there is no conflict between meetings of this type and the impartial independent role that the government has in granting licenses. Minister Coveney is on the record himself as having said that. If there is a perception that he is showing favour to any particular stakeholders in this regard he must clarify the situation or re-evaluate his role in the process.

“Notes from the meeting also indicate that the company called on the Taoiseach to appoint a 'champion' within government for the industry. Minister of State McHugh now appears to have all the elements for that within his remit and that issues may arise as to the independence of the state organisations which he now has control over. BIM & Inland Fisheries Ireland, who have previously had opposing opinions on the development of the deep sea fishfarm in Galway Bay now come under his influence. They must be allowed to work without interference or reproach in relation to the advice they give on the issuing of fish farm licenses.

“We are calling on the Taoiseach and his Ministers to explain their role in the affair and whether they need to reassess licensing procedures in light of the unease the meeting has caused amongst stakeholders in and around the Galway Bay project.”

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