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Irish Fishing Industry Representatives & Russian Ambassador Hold "Constructive" Meeting on Proposed Military Exercises off South-West Irish Coast Next Week

28th January 2022
The Russian “spy ship”, the Yantor, which turned up off the Donegal coast last August.
The Russian “spy ship”, the Yantor, which turned up off the Donegal coast last August

The Russian Embassy in Ireland has described as “constructive” and “positive” the outcome of discussions with two Irish fishing industry organisations in relation to proposed Russian military exercises next week in the Porcupine Seabight off the south-west Irish coast.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick Murphy and Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) Brendan Byrne also said the 50-minute discussion with Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov was very positive.

Byrne, who said he was “very surprised” by the wealth of knowledge of the ambassador about issues relating to the Irish fishing industry, said it was agreed that there would be a “buffer zone” between Russian vessels and fishing trawlers when military exercises are underway.

Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy FilatovVery positive - Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov

This is subject to approval from Moscow, Murphy confirmed, adding he was very happy with the meeting.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick MurphyIrish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick Murphy

“We have now come to an accommodation where there is a pathway for coexistence for the naval exercises and for our fishing fleet,” Byrne said.

Both men praised the level of communication with the Irish industry which, they said, was better than anything they had experienced from their own government.

Earlier, Murphy had expressed anger at publication by the Department of Transport of a marine notice – without advance consultation with the fishing industry - warning of “serious safety risks” posed by military exercises 240 km off the Cork coast from February 3rd to 8th.

The marine notice said the Russian Federation “has indicated that the exercises will include the use of naval artillery and launching of rockets”.

Non-governmental organisations have expressed serious concerns about the impact on marine wildlife, while military sources that the Russian Federation had selected the sea area as the “EU’s back door”, with risks posed to vitally important undersea communication cables.

International news networks covering the Ukraine crisis have reported on the Irish dimension, focusing on the stance taken by the Irish fishing industry.

Commenting on the row on January 26th, before the meeting between the Russian ambassador and Irish fishing industry representatives, North American television commentator Rachel Maddow of MSNBC noted that there was not much that Ireland could do about the military exercises. See clip below.

Maddow referred to Ireland’s weak defence capability – “no offence, but they don’t have much of a navy” and the “lack of a military radar".

She referred to Irish concerns about a Russian “spy ship”, the Yantor, which turned up off the Donegal coast last August.

“You know what Ireland does have to defend itself in this instance....it has very annoyed fishermen,” Maddow commented.

Maddow then played recent RTÉ news reports with the IS&WFPO, recorded before the organisation’s meeting with the Russian ambassador.

“The whole world, to Vladimir Putin’s great delight ...the whole world is on tenterhooks, waiting to find out whether Russia is going to start another war,” Maddow said.

“Irish fishermen on the other hand are heading out to actively stop it and fish for mackerel while they’re at it. God bless them, every single one of them,” Maddow said.

The Irish Times reported last night that the Russian embassy disputed claims by Irish fishing industry representatives that the ambassador to Ireland gave them “an absolute guarantee” that their fishing grounds will not be affected by the military exercises.

“There was no discussion of guarantees of any kind,” the embassy’s spokesman Nikita Isakin said in a statement released to The Irish Times.

Published in Naval Visits
Lorna Siggins

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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 Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Naval Visits focuses on forthcoming courtesy visits by foreign navies from our nearest neighbours, to navies from European Union and perhaps even those navies from far-flung distant shores.

In covering these Naval Visits, the range of nationality arising from these vessels can also be broad in terms of the variety of ships docking in our ports.

The list of naval ship types is long and they perform many tasks. These naval ships can include coastal patrol vessels, mine-sweepers, mine-hunters, frigates, destroyers, amphibious dock-landing vessels, helicopter-carriers, submarine support ships and the rarer sighting of submarines.

When Naval Visits are made, it is those that are open to the public to come on board, provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate up close and personal, what these look like and what they can do and a chance to discuss with the crew.

It can make even more interesting for visitors when a flotilla arrives, particularly comprising an international fleet, adding to the sense of curiosity and adding a greater mix to the type of vessels boarded.

All of this makes Naval Visits a fascinating and intriguing insight into the role of navies from abroad, as they spend time in our ports, mostly for a weekend-long call, having completed exercises at sea.

These naval exercises can involve joint co-operation between other naval fleets off Ireland, in the approaches of the Atlantic, and way offshore of the coasts of western European countries.

In certain circumstances, Naval Visits involve vessels which are making repositioning voyages over long distances between continents, having completed a tour of duty in zones of conflict.

Joint naval fleet exercises bring an increased integration of navies within Europe and beyond. These exercises improve greater co-operation at EU level but also internationally, not just on a political front, but these exercises enable shared training skills in carrying out naval skills and also knowledge.

Naval Visits are also reciprocal, in that the Irish Naval Service, has over the decades, visited major gatherings overseas, while also carrying out specific operations on many fronts.

Ireland can, therefore, be represented through these ships that also act as floating ambassadorial platforms, supporting our national interests.

These interests are not exclusively political in terms of foreign policy, through humanitarian commitments, but are also to assist existing trade and tourism links and also develop further.

Equally important is our relationship with the Irish diaspora, and to share this sense of identity with the rest of the World.

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