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.