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Coastal Communities "Disenfranchised" in Short Timeframe for Postal Vote Registration, West Cork Fish Supplier Says

31st January 2020
The handling of the postal vote, which will disenfranchise anyone at sea The handling of the postal vote, which will disenfranchise anyone at sea

A leading west Cork fish supplier and former Fine Gael campaign manager has added his voice to criticism of the short timeline for registering for a postal vote in this general election writes Lorna Siggins

Donal Kelly, managing director of Fast Fish in Castletownbere, says he is also very disappointed in the absence of any emphasis on the marine sector in the various party campaigns, given the critical impact that Britain’s exit from the EU will have on the fishing industry.

Mr Kelly whose company has an annual turnover of about €15 million, said he was “totally disillusioned with politics”, having previously worked as a director of elections for former Cork South-West Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington.

“From the handling of the postal vote, which will disenfranchise anyone at sea who didn’t register on time, to the television leaders’ debates where marine doesn’t get a look in, this election is not addressing the enormous impact Brexit will have on the fishing industry,” Mr Kelly said.

“The politicians talk about rural Ireland, but they don’t mention how critical fishing, farming and tourism are, and we need to know who is going to be negotiating on the fishing industry’s behalf in critical trade talks with Britain,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Harrington said that postal votes counted in coastal constituencies, and his experience of campaigning in Cork South-West was that they could count for up to 200 votes.

The Department of Housing has confirmed that the register for postal voting closed in all constituencies two days after the general election was called.

However, it said existing postal voters should be on the register, with a deadline of receipt of vote by the evening of Saturday, February 8th.

Mr Kelly pointed out that this is a day earlier than in previous general elections, due to the lack of postal deliveries on a Saturday.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) has written to all candidates in the general election seeking specific policies on the fishing industry in “the context of the enormous damage that may be done by Brexit to coastal communities and businesses that depend for their livelihood on a vibrant, healthy and profitable fishing industry”.

It also outlines a number of “red line” issues for its members, representing upwards of 60 fishing vessels, including removal of the principle of “relative stability” in the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The IS&WFPO said that this policy has led to the “decimation” of the Irish fishing industry and coastal communities since it was introduced in the CFP of January 1983.

It is also seeking a commitment from political parties to campaign for an ensure that no fishing vessel from any other EU member states that is displaced from British waters by Brexit is permitted to fish in in Irish waters.

It asks parties to undertake that sea fisheries and the maritime environment will constitute a full cabinet post, “rather than being tacked on as an afterthought to some other area of responsibility.

Published in Coastal Notes
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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