Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Cunningham has called on the Irish Government to ensure the rights of the Irish fishing industry are protected in the aftermath of Brexit.
Cllr Cunningham said Irish fishermen were in danger of becoming “the meat in the sandwich between the EU and Britain during any talks on Brexit.”
Cllr Cunningham who hails from the fishing village of Clogherhead said “Our government needs to make it absolutely clear to the EU negotiating team how important our fishing industry is to this island. You can be sure that the French, Dutch and other EU countries will do everything to protect their fishing industries and we must not be any different.”
At present, Ireland catches half its quota in British Waters. The London Convention of 1964 allowed Irish fishing vessels to fish in British waters before their entry into the EU. Britain has expressed that they are seeking to exit that agreement. After Brexit Ireland will have 30% of Europe’s viable fishing water and 40% of its fishing stocks yet Irish fishermen are restricted to landing just 5% or less of the overall catch putting tremendous pressure on the industry.
Cllrs Tom Cunningham & Imelda Munster TD at Clogherhead Harbour
Cllr Tom Cunningham asked “what will happen to the EU vessels that are currently fishing in British waters? They will be displaced and the obvious place for them to go to is Ireland’s waters. Stakeholders estimate Brexit will cause the loss of between 500-600 Irish vessels and as our industry is comprised of small fishing vessels, in real terms, that means thousands of families losing their primary source of income and the decimation of coastal communities right around Ireland.”
Cllr Cunningham called on the Irish Government to “demand that the non-Irish vessels that are displaced from British waters are not redirected into increasingly crowded Irish waters.”
The British decided in July of this year to withdraw from the London Convention of 1964, however, Cllr Cunningham said he would give a cautious welcome to “remarks from the British Minister Michael Gove in August on allowing EU vessels to use British waters post-Brexit” but warned “these comments will cause as much confusion as relief. The Irish fishing industry needs certainty, it needs to know what is coming down the line so they can make adequate preparations, they don’t need this flip-flop approach from the British Government. The onus is on the Irish Government to represent the fishing industry and fishing communities.”
Sinn Féin Councillor for Ardee Tom Cunningham has welcomed funding that has been made available for the Ardee Bypass.
Cllr Cunningham said “this is very welcome news for the people of Ardee and has been a long time coming. Ardee was forgotten about when it came to the Capital Investment Programme so this is good news to have it included in the midterm review of the Capital Plan.”
“All we need now is a date and timeline for the project.”
The great weather we had this week culminated in crowds of visitors to the beautiful village of Clogherhead and its blue flag beach on Sunday.
Sinn Féin Cllr Tom Cunningham said “while I am delighted to welcome all visitors to the village and the Strand, I would ask that they be mindful of where they are parking. Sunday was a beautiful day but Clogherhead was like a car park in places where cars had been parked on double yellow lines, across entrances blocking residents and at road ends making it difficult for traffic to flow.”
Cllr Cunningham was concerned that “at this time of year there is an increase in those using pleasure crafts and using the sea in different ways. It is during these times that the lifeboat is more liable to be called out. However, with the beach entrance blocked, where the life boat is stationed as it was today, the crew stood little chance of being able to attend the lifeboat in a timely manner.”
Cllr Cunningham continued “furthermore, an ambulance would not have been able to access the beach nor indeed the surrounding houses should an emergency have arisen.”
Cllr Tom Cunningham who lives in Clogherhead said “I am asking visitors to come and enjoy the delights of our village but please respect the law, the residents, the lifeboat and the emergency services. There is car parking about five minutes walk from the beach situated beside the playground and doctors surgery which was hardly used today at all.”
“I will also be talking to the Council engineers about how we deal with this in the future. This will be challenging as it really only affects a few days of the year but I will be exploring the erection of temporary signage for those days. Let us all enjoy this great weather without any unfortunate incidents.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Cunningham has urged fishermen to get involved in action against Brexit.
Councillor Cunningham was at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday discussing the decimation of the fishing industry in Ireland.
Cllr Cunningham said “The British Prime Minister triggered Article 50 so Britain will be out of Europe within two years. My main concern for Clogherhead is that the main fleet is prawn fishermen and their area is British waters which obviously will no longer be available to them after the two years are up.
“Not only that, but as the British waters will be longer available to them or indeed other fleets from other EU countries, where are they going to fish? In Irish waters obviously. We can not be made to bear the brunt of the displaced fleets from British waters. The government is already neglecting the fishing industry, I don’t have much faith that they will represent our interests in any arrangements being made under Brexit.”
Cllr Cunningham said “The fishing industry must get involved, along with the farmers because they are the two groups that are going to be the main losers in the whole Brexit fiasco. We can not allow these displaced fleets to transfer to Irish waters, our fishing industry would be finished as would our coastal communities as we know them.
“No-one knows the fishing industry better than the fishermen. Get involved, oppose Brexit, demand your rights and interests are protected. Don’t leave it to a neglectful government to do it for you because as we all know, they won’t.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Cunningham attended European meetings during the week as part of a fisheries delegation made up of Irish councillors and Senators. The meeting was hosted by Liadh Ní Riada MEP who is on the Fisheries Committee in Europe.
Cllr Cunningham criticised the use of Supertrawlers which has practically decimated the fishing industry around Clogherhead and other small fishing towns around the country.
Cllr Cunningham said “more must be done to protect the small fishermen and the smaller fleets as they are in crisis and it seems that no-one is listening.
“If you can imagine huge Supertrawlers casting nets about the same size as the whole of Croke Park imagine what is being lifted and caught in those nets. They then just pick and choose which part of their huge catch is most profitable to them and the rest is thrown back. This has to be addressed. They are sucking life out of the ocean while smaller fleets and small independent fishermen look on helplessly.”
Cllr Cunningham then explained that “they aren’t even processing all this fish in Ireland, only about 5% is actually processed here so they are hoovering up our fish and taking it away. If fish are caught in Irish waters, they should be made to process them here.”
Tom Cunningham, during one of the meetings on the ‘Inequality in fisheries – Supertrawlers and industrial fishing and their impact on small-scale and local fisheries’ said there should be heavy penalties for the supertrawlers who don’t abide by the rules.
“These Supertrawlers are owned by big wealthy companies so a fine of perhaps €20,000 means absolutely nothing to them. I suggested they should lose their quotas altogether. It was also suggested that two observers could be present on the Supertrawlers monitoring their activities and to prevent bribes or intimidation from the owners, they should be fitted with body cameras. This would stop the ‘blind eye’ being turned at the minute by local authorities while the smaller fishermen faces the full weight of the law for the slightest infraction.”