#FISHING - Marine Minister Simon Coveney has been accused of "hypocrisy" by supporting subsidies for modernising Europe's fishing fleets despite his previous opposition to overfishing.
The Sunday Times reports that Minister Coveney signalled his backing for new subsidies that would allow European fishermen to modernise their trawlers at a meeting to discuss reform of the Common Fisheries Policy recently.
However, environmental groups argue that such subsidies would be used by bigger fishing countries like France and Spain to exploit already dwindling fish stocks in Irish waters.
"Coveney and his advisers made a number of strategic mistakes in supporting the continued payments of subsidies to Europe's fishermen," said Markus Knigge, a consultant with environmental lobby group Ocean 2012.
"The Spanish are the main beneficiaries and they will use part of this money to improve their fleet, which will enter Irish waters and catch even more fish and deplete Irish stocks. Ireland really voted to allow Spain to overfish its waters."
Knigge said Minister Coveney's position on the matter was a U-turn on his previous commitment to end the practice of discarding fish at sea.
An agreement reached by Europe's fisheries ministers this summer was criticised as "vague" by environmental groups and 'fish fight' campaigners.
Meanwhile, Ebbie Sheehan of the Irish Fishermen's Organisation said that what Irish fishermen really needed was not subsidies but permission to land the fish they catch, instead of being forced to discard fish when they go over quota.