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The European Ombudsman may be asked to examine the case of the Mary Kate, the fishing vessel which developed serious stability issues after it was bought by an Arklow family.

An Oireachtas committee has also agreed to appoint an expert to examine information surrounding the case.

Representatives of the departments of transport and agriculture, food and marine may then be invited before the committee after the expert report is completed.

The Joint Committee on Public Petitions and the Ombudsmen has proposed to take these actions after an initial hearing on the case in late February.

Arklow fisherman CJ Gaffney was invited to outline his experience, where he was left with debts of 1 million euro.

The committee had also invited Mary Bertelsen, campaigner and concerned citizen on people’s rights; Jakob Pinkster, Dutch stability and ship building expert; and Justin Delaney, stability expert.

Gaffney had tried unsuccessfully to take legal action in both the Netherlands and Germany after he discovered the stability issues with the vessel.

He told the committee members how he took out a loan to cover fixing the vessel and then had to surrender it to the bank in 2012.

He sought EU funds in compensation, but the EU said it was up to the national state as it was under 24 metres in length.

The vessel was broken up in New Ross, Co Wexford last year under the government’s decommissioning scheme.

Gaffney maintains that questions need to be asked at both national level and EU level as to how the beam trawler was issued with a stamped stability book from a renowned international classification society.

The committee members heard that 11 sister vessels were built, and three of them are similar to the Mary Kate – as in four “incorrect vessels” which were much heavier in the water.

Delaney said this had serious maritime safety implications, and said he had tried to raise the issue with the relevant German and Dutch authorities.

He expressed his shock that an EU investigation had not as yet been initiated, and said that the Gaffneys also deserved compensation for their ordeal.

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Independent Senator Victor Boyhan has given his backing to a skipper’s battle for redress over the purchase of a fishing trawler that proved to be dangerously unstable, according to The Fishing Daily.

As previously reported on, CJ Gaffney and his father bought the beam trawler Mary Kate in the Netherlands in 2007.

The vessel was certified as safe by German authorities, but after a number of close calls where Gaffney says it “almost turned over”, it was discovered that 20 tonnes of unaccounted steel were in the hull.

The Gaffney family subsequently opted to lengthen the vessel for safety and it was issued a stability certificate by the Marine Survey Office in 2009.

But the remedial works left the family unable to afford a new fishing licence for the Mary Kate, and a potential sale to the UK was blocked by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

What’s more, the family attempted legal action against a number of parties including the German Marine Safety Authority but jurisdiction could not be established.

The boat has since been sold off by Gaffneys’ lenders and the family are left with an outstanding loan of €2 million.

A number of politicians have raised the Gaffney’ plight in both the European Parliament and the Dáil.

And Senator Boyhan, a former county councillor in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, is the latest to lend his support to the Arklow fishing family — calling on Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to have his department carry out a thorough investigation in to the matter.

“No words can describe the nightmare the family has lived through. They have lost their boat, their fishing licence, their fishing quota, their family investment,” he says.

“They have lost their livelihood, and respectability within the fishing community, they also feel they have lost their good name and their proud maritime heritage spanning five generations of their family. They are financially ruined.”

The Fishing Daily has more on the story HERE.

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Afloat's Wavelengths Podcast with Lorna Siggins

Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...