Sea-Fisheries Bill passed by Dáil - Gerry Adams TD
Sinn Fein Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed the overwhelming vote by the Dáil on Thursday to pass the Sea Fisheries Amendment Bill.
This will allow fishing vessels from both parts of the island to fish within the six nautical mile limit around the entire island.
Teachta Adams expressed disappointment that amendments Sinn Féin had proposed to address concerns raised by fishing organisations were rejected by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
The former Sinn Féin leader also called for a dedicated Fisheries Minister to be appointed to the government.
Mr Adams said:
“The onus is now on the Irish government to ensure that the concerns of fishing organisations are properly address by it and that no loop-holes emerge that will allow vessels from other states to abuse the new situation.
“We are an island people - an island nation. Despite this, Irish governments in the past have failed to effectively defend, promote and protect our fishing industry.
"Successive governments – both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - have failed to invest in and encourage the development of follow-up fish related industries, specifically fish processing.
"At the same time billions of euro of fish have been taken from Irish waters.
"A massive loss to Irish fishing communities - a huge loss for the economy of the island.
"Only a small proportion of the catch was taken by the Irish fleet, which is underdeveloped and as fishing families know it’s a very dangerous and often risky occupation.
"We have seen in our time the decline of the fishing industry, and a significant loss of jobs over recent decades.
"There is an onus on the Irish government to maximise the exploitation of our natural fishing resources, in a managed and sustainable fashion. This should also include a dedicated Fisheries Minister.
"For a government of an island nation, even one partitioned as we are at this time, not to conserve, not to manage, not to develop our fishing stocks for the national good, makes no sense whatsoever.
"The Sea Fisheries Bill is about giving legal effect to a convention that has been in place since the 1960s and allowed Irish fishing vessels from any part of this island to fish in any part of the waters of this island.
"It was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 and but for the recent embarrassing arrest of two northern trawlers it might still not have been addressed by the government.
"The government’s Bill caused considerable concern among the fishing organisations. Many are worried that if the Bill becomes law it could inadvertently open the door to the fishing fleets of the contracting parties to the London Fisheries Convention getting de facto access to the six-mile limit.
"Sinn Féin has consulted with some of the Fishing Organisations and our amendments were intended to address this concern.
"Regrettably, the government, with the support of Fianna Fáil which put in no amendments, refused to accept our amendments.
"Nonetheless, Sinn Féin voted for the Bill in the interests of resolving the most important issue of allowing fishing north and south to fish in each-others waters”.
Concluding Gerry Adams said:
“In addressing the issue of sea fishing in the context of the six mile limit and the island of Ireland we must remember the imperative of the Good Friday Agreement.
"The all-Ireland Agreement emphasised the need for 'consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland - including through implementation on an all-island and cross-border basis - on matters of mutual interest within the competence of the Administrations, North and South'.
"It also urged the production of 'common policies, in areas where there is a mutual cross-border and all-island benefit'. Clearly fishing is one of these.
"Very specifically among the Areas for North-South co-operation and implementation identified by the Good Friday Agreement are the issues of Inland Fisheries, Aquaculture and marine matters.
"The defence of the Good Friday Agreement, which has been at the heart of the Brexit debate and negotiations, must be a priority and that Agreement must be protected. That includes also protecting the rights of those Irish citizens who work in the fishing industry in every part of this island."