‘Betrayed and abandoned’

‘Betrayed and abandoned’
Priests speak out for fishing communities

A number of rural priests have described a sense of betrayal in fishing communities, as well as increasing frustration with the apparent indifference shown by Government to their plight.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic Fr John Joe Duffy of Dunfanaghy /Creeslough parish Co. Donegal said the communities feel “betrayed and abandoned” over the inaction of the Department of Agriculture and Marine and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), which he called “not fit for purpose”.

“The fishing communities feel betrayed by their own Government, by the Department of Marine and again the SFPA,” Fr Duffy said. “They have issued the most draconian measures against Irish fishermen that do not exist for other fishermen.”

He compared recently announced regulations, which no longer allow weighing to be conducted in factories or processing plants, to “trying to weigh everyone who comes into Dublin on the same scale at once – it would cause chaos… What they’re effectively doing is bringing the entire industry to halt,” he added.

The regulations were introduced following an audit by the EU Commission in 2018, subsequently confirmed by an SFPA inquiry, which revealed “manipulation of weighing systems” in Irish factories.

Fr Patrick Mernagh, priest in the fishing town of Kilmore, Co. Wexford, said local fishermen and women are “frustrated” over the “totally ridiculous” regulations that require catches to be weighed at landing.

“There’s a total lack of understanding, they’ve put all the facilities in place like they were asked to and now they’re asking them to change,” Fr Mernagh continued.

He said that communities want “equality in their own waters”, as they have already lost much from Brexit negotiations. It is estimated that between €5,000 and €20,000 in income could be lost because of Brexit for individual fishermen and women.

In Castletownbere, a fishing community in Co. Cork, retired fisherman Brendan O’Driscoll told The Irish Catholic that to those “in the halls of power” the fishing industry seems small, but “it’s huge to fishing communities”.

“The industry is being decimated,” Mr O’Driscoll said. “We’re sick of it, people can’t survive anymore. There’s been stuff going on for years, we’ve been fighting against the tide for many years.”

Mr O’Driscoll said that he and his brother retired two years ago, having been “born and reared into it”, citing the bureaucracy and “injustice” of the systems in place.

“Injustice is the big thing,” he said. “We’re Europeans, we’re the best Europeans around, but we want equality in our own waters. We see 30-40 artic loads of fish leaving here, unchecked, on French and Spanish vessels… It isn’t that we want all the fish, we just want a fair share.”

The chief of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Organisation warned that “we are looking at an impossible situation of entering a new pelagic season in September, without the wherewithal to operate our fisheries”.

Mr Brendan Byrne said that the fishing industry has been constantly “undervalued”, despite the fact that it supports 16,000 jobs in coastal communities.

“We’re in a hopeless situation,” Mr Byrne said, warning that the Irish sector is “in a state of collapse”.

Read more here – Irish fishing communities ‘fighting against the tide’