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EU Fisheries Commissioner Pays Tribute to Irish Fishermen over Their Diplomacy on Russian Military Exercises

31st January 2022
Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said that “Irish fishermen got their diplomatic game on! “
Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said that “Irish fishermen got their diplomatic game on! “

The EU’s fisheries commissioner has paid tribute to Irish fishermen for their role in shifting the location of Russian military exercises outside the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a tweet, Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said that “Irish fishermen got their diplomatic game on! “

“They managed to stop Russian military exercises that would undermine their activities and marine life,” he said.

“ Real custodians of the sea on duty! The world could use more of you!” the commissioner, who holds the environment, oceans and fisheries portfolio, tweeted.

He was responding to a report on Irish Central headlined “Irish fishermen defeat the Russian navy”.

The Russian ambassador to Ireland has credited both the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) and the Irish government with its decision to relocate planned military exercises outside the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In a statement on Saturday, Ambassador Yuriy Filatov said that the Russian Federation’s defence minister Sergey Shoigu has decided “as a gesture of goodwill” to relocate exercises on February 3rd to 8th to an area outside the Irish EEZ.

The military exercises had been planned to take place some 240 km off the Irish southwest coast, within the Irish EEZ.

This had led to serious concerns among fishermen about the impact on their economic activity, while environmental groups expressed fears about the impact on marine life, including cetaceans.

North American news network CNN has described the latest development as a victory for Irish fishermen.

“Russians blink after Irish fishermen’s vow to block Navy war games,” CNN said in a headline to the report by CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan, broadcast live from Castletownbere, Co Cork on Saturday.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy, who met the Russian ambassador to Ireland over the issue last week along with Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association chief executive Brendan Byrne, has stated that Irish fishing vessels were not protesting, but were asserting their right to fish their quota on their traditional grounds.

The breakthrough on Saturday was confirmed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney,m who said that he had written to his counterpart, the Russian Federation’s defence minister, this week, “to request a reconsideration of naval exercises off the Irish coast”.

“This evening I received a letter confirming the Russian exercises will be relocated outside of Ireland’s EEZ. I welcome this response,” Coveney tweeted.

"We don’t know where they plan to have military exercises, but it certainly won’t be in international waters that Ireland has responsibility for,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ News.

Ireland would try be a voice for compromise to help avoid a war between Russia and Ukraine describing any conflict as potentially being the largest land war in Europe since the second world war, he said.

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.

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