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A Question for The Marine Minister

6th December 2016
Mussel boat Mussel boat

“The question which must be answered by the Minister is – Does his Department genuinely not think that fish are a natural resource?

“If the answer is ‘no’ – then who, in his name (and all of us), said that they were not?”

That question, from a solicitor very experienced in fisheries matters, deserves an answer.

But will it be answered by the Minister for the Marine?

What do you think …. I am not particularly hopeful, but it is at the kernel of a major issue at the moment and also highlights the lack of national media coverage of maritime affairs and fisheries in particular…. Which mostly attract attention in times of tragedy, crisis or controversy.

Did you see much coverage, for example, that Northern Ireland fishing boats have been told they are no longer permitted within the six-mile Republic limit…. And that there could be consequent effects within the 12-mile limit …. Or that a bill for up to €200m could face the State, for which read us taxpayers, for what was done back in 1965 by an exchange of letters, described as a “gentlemen’s agreement,” between, it seems, civil servants on behalf of their Minister, which created what was called the VOISINAGE agreement or arrangement.

It’s all to do with mussel seed and a case taken by four fishermen against the State where, after years of legal activity, the Supreme Court ruled that the Government was not right in giving away a natural resource of the State without the approval of the Oireachtas…

Dermot Conway of Conway Solicitors in Cork has dealt with many fisheries cases….including a successful challenge against the issue of Penalty Points…

The question he has raised about whether fish is seen by the Department of the Marine as a natural resource is at the core of the attitude of Department officials towards the industry, it seems to me…… “Incredibly,” Dermot Conway says, Department officials argued in Court that mussel seed in Irish waters was “not a natural resource…”

So, let’s have an answer to the question….
I did ask the Department of the Marine who actually signed the VOISINAGE agreement letter on behalf of this Republic…. They wouldn’t tell me….

Published in Island Nation

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