Sinn Fein Councillor Tom Cunningham has welcomed cross party support for his motion at this month’s Council meeting calling on the Government to establish a new Department whose sole aim would be to protect the fishing industry and coastal communities.
Cllr Cunningham said “Clogherhead and Louth are not alone in feeling abandoned by successive governments. Coastal communities around Ireland have been let down and in many cases decimated as their livelihoods and way of life has been sold off.”
“I am calling for a dedicated Minister for the Marine, whose sole job will be to promote and develop our coastal areas and communities and reverse the damage that has been done over the years.”
Currently Ireland has the Department for Agriculture, Food and The Marine but according to Cllr Cunningham “the portfolio is too broad and the Marine element is lost as agriculture tends to get all the focus. We have two competing sectors within the responsibility of just one Minister. Cllr Cunningham explained that “the core work of the Department revolves around EU legislation in the Common Agricultural Policy who set the rules on the internal market for agriculture, forestry, organic production, quality of production, food and animal feed safety.
“At the same time you have discussions on the Common Fisheries policy which covers the setting of annual allowable catches and quotas for each species and the allocation of fishing opportunities which in itself is a huge task of work.
“Yet, we have only one Minister sitting at the table involved in these important discussions while some other countries have two, one for Agriculture and one for Fisheries.”
Cllr Cunningham recognised that “Agriculture is important to this State but as an Island Nation, fisheries is equally as important. It is impossible for one Minister to focus his full attention on either of these sectors.”
Cllr Cunningham also pointed out that “small farmers would also benefit from having a Minister who only had a single portfolio; it would give the Minister the opportunity to concentrate on agriculture while a second Minister would be focussing on Fisheries.”
In conclusion Cllr Cunningham said “It is inconceivable that we don’t have a stand-alone Department for Fisheries, Marine and Marine Communities with its own Minister. For goodness sake, we live on an island!”
Full text of motion is: That Louth County Council calls on the Government to establish a stand-alone Department for Fisheries, Marine and Coastal Communities together with a designated Minister. I feel that the fishing industry and our Coastal Communities are under threat. The new Department’s role would be to safeguard and promote our fishing sector, coastal communities, islands and marine bio-diversity.