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Fishing Industry Warns Marine Minister Over New Penalty Points Legislation Without Recourse to Appeal

5th July 2019
The EU penalty points system applies to serious breaches of EU fisheries legislation, and industry organisations have said they have no issues with the system in principle. The EU penalty points system applies to serious breaches of EU fisheries legislation, and industry organisations have said they have no issues with the system in principle.

Fishing industry organisations have warned Minister for Marine Michael Creed that they will “take him on anywhere and everywhere” if he reintroduces a system of penalty points for commercial fishing breaches without recourse to an appeal writes Lorna Siggins.

Mr Creed outlined the options to Cabinet yesterday on bringing forward new legislation on penalty points, and wording is currently being prepared.

Fianna Fáíl TD and Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher also said he was “very surprised” that Mr Creed planned to table a new statutory instrument on the issue without consulting with the Opposition.

However, a spokesman for Mr Creed said there would be communication with Mr Gallagher, who had put forward his own alternative legislation.

The EU penalty points system applies to serious breaches of EU fisheries legislation, and industry organisations have said they have no issues with the system in principle.

The Government has made three attempts since 2014 to transpose the system into Irish law by way of a statutory instrument (SI), with the latest wording in May 2018 permitting an appeal to the High Court.

However, there was criticism of its failure to allow sufficient time for appeal and the fact that points would remain on a licence even if a fisherman was cleared in court.

It became the first statutory instrument in the State’s history to fall in a vote, and Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Francis O’Donnell said the industry was confident that Fianna Fáíl, Sinn Féin and Independent TDs understood the industry’s continuing concerns.

"We will take the minister on anywhere and everywhere if there is no recourse to appeal, and points remain on a license if a fisherman is exonerated," Mr O'Donnell said. Industry organisations who had been briefed by Mr Creed yesterday were united in their views, he said.

Mr Creed has said Ireland could lose out on up to 37.2 million euro in money from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund if penalty points legislation is not put in place.

However, Mr Gallagher said that if the Government was so concerned about this funding, “where was it for the last 14 months” since he had tabled alternative legislation.

Mr Gallagher said he had not received a response over that 14 months to his alternative wording.

A spokesman for Mr Creed he was “endeavouring to take on board many of the recommendations raised in last year’s Dáil debate on the issue” in putting forward the new SI.

Last year, the Attorney General Seamus Wolfe warned that a new penalty points system aimed at fishermen who engaged in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing could face a Supreme Court challenge, and described the legislation then as "controversial" and "difficult".

"The EU loves these things about sanctions regimes. Instead of just prosecuting people and having the criminal system and the civil system, you've something in between which is a sanctions regime," he was reported to have said, speaking at a lunch in March, 2018 organised by the Association of European Journalists, which was attended by 50 people from journalism, public relations and lobbyists..

Mr Woulfe said many people had queried whether somebody accused of wrongdoing should be entitled to have a jury trial. "The answer is 'no' under the EU system so we're going to have trips to the Supreme Court about all of that."

Published in Fishing
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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