New Minister for the Marine must ensure a fair and just penalty points scheme - Pádraig MacLochlainn TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD has appealed to the new Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to “listen to our fishing communities and ensure a fair and just penalty points scheme”.
Speaking in the Dáil last evening, Teachta Mac Lochlainn said:
“Fishers all around our coast were shocked and outraged when they learned that the Taoiseach had signed off on the statutory instrument introducing regulations containing a penalty point system.
"Those fishers learned about this almost a fortnight ago and I have spoken to many of their representatives since. They are shocked that the Taoiseach signed off on this when he voted against pretty much the same Statutory Instrument (S.I.) in 2018 as this latest, S.I. 318 of 2020.
"Minister McConalogue also voted against the S.I. and penalty points scheme at that time. Both the Taoiseach and the Minister were absolutely right in how they voted on 29th May 2018.
"The then Fianna Fáil spokesperson on the Marine, Pat The Cope Gallagher, introduced that motion. I have re-read what he had to say in that debate and he was spot on in his criticisms. Not only had he criticisms, he subsequently put forward amendments to the regulation that provided solutions to the problems he identified. Yet nothing has been done by the Ministers and their Department officials to resolve this since.
"The Dáil voted down a statutory instrument from a Minister for the first time on 29th May 2018 and it has not happened since, to my knowledge. The Dáil was right to do so because the contents of that statutory instrument and the one that has been passed in recent weeks were and are outrageous.
“Imagine a scenario where a Garda issues penalty points to a driver. The driver says that he or she has done no wrong. The Garda then gets to select the judge who will hear the case and penalty points are still applied even though due process has not been exhausted.
"The driver then has no automatic right to apply to a higher court. The same situation is happening here. The wording of the statutory instrument is incredible. It talks about decisions being made on the balance of probabilities.
"Under our common law system and Constitution, a person has a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Those who are accusing a person, particularly when the State is the accuser, must prove his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and yet the balance of probabilities is the standard under this statutory instrument.
"The Minister will know Sinn Féin have tabled a fresh annulment motion, based on the 2018 motion that he and An Taoiseach supported. We have held back on it in good faith and I have been asked by fishing representative organisations to give them a chance to meet the Minister and put their case.
"We believe that fair play can prevail. I am aware that the Minister will meet fishing representative organisations soon. I am asking him to resolve this issue because he knows that this was wrong in 2018 and it is wrong now."