#FISHING - The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) aquaculture executive has criticised the Government's grant aid scheme announced this week, claiming that it rules out the majority of Ireland's fish farming industry from accessing funds.
Richie Flynn said that the rules for grant aid insist that applicants hold a "current licence", which he claims is "virtually impossible" to procure at present.
“The prolonged and unnecessary delays in dealing with licenses are within the control of the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food to resolve with the National Parks and Wildlife Services," he said. "The fact that they have not succeeded in issuing renewals to industry since 2007 is their fault.
"Now we have a situation where to avail of grant aid, the same department are insisting on having an up to date licence, which is virtually impossible to achieve, from their colleagues in the same offices in Clonakilty.
"It makes a mockery of the grant aid system and exposes the insanity of holding back an industry which can provide vital jobs and exports for our coastal peripheral areas."
The IFA also described as "technically and practically unfeasible" the Government's insistence that grant-funded projects be completed before the end of the calendar year.
“The industry is wondering if the department is deliberately trying to set up a situation where they give themselves no choice but to give back their aquaculture budget to the Department of Finance for the third year in a row to make themselves look good," he said. "From the point of view of fish farmers, processors, customers, suppliers, consumers and industry watchers, it looks anything but good."
Flynn called on Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney to "re-examine his own departmentally imposed restrictions, which are not required by EU rules, and give a boost to a sector which has serious demand for its products and a bright future ahead if domestically imposed obstacles are removed.”