#islands – On Thursday, October 9, not enough TDs turned up in the Dáil to create a quorum for the business of our national Parliament. The Opposition accused the Government parties of being responsible and of showing lack of commitment to the affairs of the nation.
One of the affairs of the nation to which the Dáil shows lack of interest is the maritime sphere.
The Government is particularly culpable in this regard and is ignoring two reports which it commissioned on the maritime sphere and coastal communities.
I wrote last week about this neglect, questioning in particular the Government's dilution of maritime affairs by moving them into several departments.
This attitude is underlined by the manner in which it has refused to give time to discuss the Oireachtas Committee report on coastal and island communities which was presented to them in January of this year and the CEDRA Report which also made recommendations about maritime affairs.
The Oireachtas Committee which examined and reported on the Islands and Coastal Communities made a request for a national conference to be held by Departments with responsibilities in the maritime sphere. It also called for a debate in the Dáil and Senate on the issues it had highlighted of neglect and failures to support these communities. The Committee highlighted, amongst other issues, that State 'governance arrangements' were "not the best working model."
The Government has not given debate time nor have any of the Departments with involvement in the marine sphere done anything to organise a national conference involving those in the marine sphere to debate the issues. There were more than 30 recommendations in the report, ranging from maritime tourism to the seaweed industry.
Since the report was delivered the State company, Arramara, was sold off by Udaras na Gaeltachta. Questions have been raised about this, the sale has been subject to a lot of criticism, but there has been no Dáil or Senate debate on why another maritime resource, the property of the people of the nation, was sold to private interests. This was done despite the objections of seaweed growers who have alleged that their livelihoods were being destroyed.
Another maritime report by a Commission set up by the Government, which has been ignored since it was delivered, is the CEDRA Report (Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas) which concluded that there should be 'plan-led' development of Ireland's marine territory to support economic targets and goals set out in the Government's Ocean Wealth Plan. It challenged the Government's commitment to this plan and whether it will, as a result, be effective.
The Chairman of CEDRA, former Kerry footballer and analyst Pat Spillane, did not know that the State company, Arramara, was being sold off by Udaras na Gaeltachta when his Commission recommended that the Government must set up "a regulatory development framework for the State's seaweed sector, both wild and cultivated," which would have economic and employment prospects for national benefit.
Neither did the Chairman of the Oireachtas Fisheries Committee, Andrew Doyle, T.D., know about the Government's agreement to sell off this State company and national resource, when his Committee made a similar recommendation to that of CEDRA's.
Both of these recommendations by State-appointed review bodies, were ignored by the Government. Is this not a clear indication of disregard for the maritime sector?
There are a lot of unanswered questions about how and why this sale was carried out and the effects it will have on the seaweed industry, such as why employment and potential economic benefits were ignored, as were those for whom it provided a livelihood.
Why has this sale not been made an issue for debate in the Dáil? Where are TDs and the national media in challenging aspects of it and asking for explanations?
The public reaction of the CEDRA Chairman to the Government's lack of response to his Commission's Report, which also made recommendations, as did the Oireachtas Committee, about the development of marine tourism and marinas, suggests that the Government's real commitment, away from the public relations spin, may be lacking.
In contrast to the frustration of lack of sufficient p Government focus and commitment to the maritime sector, there is the determination of people like Caitlin Ni Aodha from Helvick in County Waterford. In January of 2012 Caitlin stood on the quayside at Union Hall in West Cork when the Tit Bonhomme trawler tragedy occurred and her husband, Michael, and members of the crew died.
Caitlin Ni Aodha from Helvick in County Waterford
In the latest edition of my fortnightly half-hour radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, which you can hear here, I talk on the quayside at Howth to Caitlin as her new boat is launched, a 23-metre prawn freezer. She says that over the last few years she had learned a lot about life, about how good things happened, tragedies occurred, but life had to go on and it was important to do the best one can in life:
"People suffer tragedies, everything is not always easy. Michael and the Tit Bonhomme will be with me for ever. Every day I think of them, but I must do the very best I can with my life."
It is not possible to maximise opportunities from the sea without a strong maritime culture. The Government and its officials could follow that approach to improve their attitude towards the fishing and marine industries. They could also listen to and benefit from hearing the determination of the man in charge of the State's newest naval vessel, Lt.Cdr.Tony Geraghty of the L.E.Samuel Beckett, on the programme. He outlines his determination to demonstrate the public the value of investment in the maritime sphere through the new ship. The ship is a positive State commitment, but the Government generally needs to do much more to show it appreciates that is responsible for the entire welfare of an island nation and to cherish all of its people equally.
Until next week, the usual wish of ..... "fair sailing" ........
Twitter: @AfloatMagazine @Tom MacSweeney