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Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called on all Irish parties in the EU to support her amendment calling for funding for Irish islands in the European Parliament tomorrow.

The Ireland South MEP made the call for cross-party support for our islands ahead of tomorrow's plenary vote on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

"I am calling for all Irish political parties not just to support this amendment, which will give vital support to our struggling island communities, but to lobby their own political groups within the European Parliament to support it as well," she said.

"My amendment would allow the EU to finance 85% of operations to the Irish islands with the Irish exchequer footing just 15% of the bill.

"Worryingly, while this amendment was accepted when I first raised it at committee level, Fianna Fail's European group, ALDE, have now requested it be voted on separately tomorrow as they intend to oppose it.

"Post Brexit, Ireland and the Irish islands will be one of the most geographically isolated parts of the EU. Our islands will require all the support they can get and this amendment can help ensure they aren't allowed to deteriorate further.

"Fianna Fail must speak up against their group's decision and demand that they drop their opposition to this vital amendment. It is long past time Fianna Fail started putting their country ahead of their party.

"For ALDE or any other political group to vote against support for some of the most isolated islands and regions in the EU would be a slap in the face to the people of Ireland.

“I am making the same call to Fine Gael and their European group, the EPP, as well as to Labour and their group the S&Ds, to support this amendment protecting rural, coastal and island communities in Ireland.

"Tomorrow we will see if these parties intend to use their influence in the European Parliament to represent Ireland's interests in Europe or are they merely Europe's representatives in Ireland."

Published in Island News
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#Coastal - Ireland's coastal islands offer some astounding vistas, as this breathtaking video from the Smithsonian Channel shows perfectly.

The clip from the American TV channel's Sky View series sweeps high above the Aran Islands to highlight the rugged beauty of the west coast, from the skeletal shipwrecks to the rocky shores to the veins of stone walls across the green landscape.

It's easy to see why the Wild Atlantic Way is such a draw for tourists, but let's not ignore the bounty of the east coast either, as the Irish Independent highlights the New York Times' celebration of Dublin Bay's world-class views for "little more than the cost of a pint".

Cited as "one of the most beautiful views in the world" in that tribute is the vista as seen from Howth Head, from where one has a perfect 'eye-catching' view of the enthralling Ireland's Eye.

The tiny island, with its prominent Martello tower, is less than a mile from the North Dublin fishing village, and doesn't even seem that far from the end of the pier.

But as Conor Pope reports in The Irish Times, it "may as well be on a different planet", describing a place full of mystery, history – and even murder.

Meanwhile, off the southwest coast there's another tiny rock with its own storied past that's about to take on a whole new relevance to fans of the Star Wars saga.

BBC News reports on Skellig Michael, the island "that links Irish monks and Jedi knights" after filming took place last year for the hotly anticipated movie The Force Unleashed.

The island is already a popular spot for visitors, but could soon welcome many more – with lightsabers in tow!

Published in Coastal Notes

#islands – On Thursday, October 9, not enough TDs turned up in the Dáil to create a quorum for the business of our national Parliament. The Opposition accused the Government parties of being responsible and of showing lack of commitment to the affairs of the nation.

One of the affairs of the nation to which the Dáil shows lack of interest is the maritime sphere.

The Government is particularly culpable in this regard and is ignoring two reports which it commissioned on the maritime sphere and coastal communities.

I wrote last week about this neglect, questioning in particular the Government's dilution of maritime affairs by moving them into several departments.

This attitude is underlined by the manner in which it has refused to give time to discuss the Oireachtas Committee report on coastal and island communities which was presented to them in January of this year and the CEDRA Report which also made recommendations about maritime affairs.

The Oireachtas Committee which examined and reported on the Islands and Coastal Communities made a request for a national conference to be held by Departments with responsibilities in the maritime sphere. It also called for a debate in the Dáil and Senate on the issues it had highlighted of neglect and failures to support these communities. The Committee highlighted, amongst other issues, that State 'governance arrangements' were "not the best working model."

The Government has not given debate time nor have any of the Departments with involvement in the marine sphere done anything to organise a national conference involving those in the marine sphere to debate the issues. There were more than 30 recommendations in the report, ranging from maritime tourism to the seaweed industry.

Since the report was delivered the State company, Arramara, was sold off by Udaras na Gaeltachta. Questions have been raised about this, the sale has been subject to a lot of criticism, but there has been no Dáil or Senate debate on why another maritime resource, the property of the people of the nation, was sold to private interests. This was done despite the objections of seaweed growers who have alleged that their livelihoods were being destroyed.

Another maritime report by a Commission set up by the Government, which has been ignored since it was delivered, is the CEDRA Report (Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas) which concluded that there should be 'plan-led' development of Ireland's marine territory to support economic targets and goals set out in the Government's Ocean Wealth Plan. It challenged the Government's commitment to this plan and whether it will, as a result, be effective.

The Chairman of CEDRA, former Kerry footballer and analyst Pat Spillane, did not know that the State company, Arramara, was being sold off by Udaras na Gaeltachta when his Commission recommended that the Government must set up "a regulatory development framework for the State's seaweed sector, both wild and cultivated," which would have economic and employment prospects for national benefit.

Neither did the Chairman of the Oireachtas Fisheries Committee, Andrew Doyle, T.D., know about the Government's agreement to sell off this State company and national resource, when his Committee made a similar recommendation to that of CEDRA's.

Both of these recommendations by State-appointed review bodies, were ignored by the Government. Is this not a clear indication of disregard for the maritime sector?

There are a lot of unanswered questions about how and why this sale was carried out and the effects it will have on the seaweed industry, such as why employment and potential economic benefits were ignored, as were those for whom it provided a livelihood.

Why has this sale not been made an issue for debate in the Dáil? Where are TDs and the national media in challenging aspects of it and asking for explanations?

The public reaction of the CEDRA Chairman to the Government's lack of response to his Commission's Report, which also made recommendations, as did the Oireachtas Committee, about the development of marine tourism and marinas, suggests that the Government's real commitment, away from the public relations spin, may be lacking.

In contrast to the frustration of lack of sufficient p Government focus and commitment to the maritime sector, there is the determination of people like Caitlin Ni Aodha from Helvick in County Waterford. In January of 2012 Caitlin stood on the quayside at Union Hall in West Cork when the Tit Bonhomme trawler tragedy occurred and her husband, Michael, and members of the crew died.

CAITLIN_NI_AODHA.jpg

Caitlin Ni Aodha from Helvick in County Waterford

In the latest edition of my fortnightly half-hour radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, which you can hear here, I talk on the quayside at Howth to Caitlin as her new boat is launched, a 23-metre prawn freezer. She says that over the last few years she had learned a lot about life, about how good things happened, tragedies occurred, but life had to go on and it was important to do the best one can in life:
"People suffer tragedies, everything is not always easy. Michael and the Tit Bonhomme will be with me for ever. Every day I think of them, but I must do the very best I can with my life."

LE_SAMUEL_BECKETT.jpg

L.E.Samuel Beckett

It is not possible to maximise opportunities from the sea without a strong maritime culture. The Government and its officials could follow that approach to improve their attitude towards the fishing and marine industries. They could also listen to and benefit from hearing the determination of the man in charge of the State's newest naval vessel, Lt.Cdr.Tony Geraghty of the L.E.Samuel Beckett, on the programme. He outlines his determination to demonstrate the public the value of investment in the maritime sphere through the new ship. The ship is a positive State commitment, but the Government generally needs to do much more to show it appreciates that is responsible for the entire welfare of an island nation and to cherish all of its people equally.

Until next week, the usual wish of ..... "fair sailing" ........

Twitter: @AfloatMagazine @Tom MacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#Islands - Sea kayaking enthusiast David Walsh has published a second edition of Oileáin, his popular pictorial guide to Ireland's coastal islands, as TheJournal.ie reports.

Now featuring some 574 islands - 503 of which the author has personally landed upon - the book's selection runs from the easily accessible, such as Ireland's Eye off Howth, to the rugged and remote, like the infamous Fastnet Rock south of the Cork coast.

While Walsh provides practical advice for how readers can themselves lands on even the most challenging of these islands, the book has equal appeal to anyone curious about the many islands, big and small, that stud the Irish coastline.

TheJournal.ie has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News

#COASTGUARD - Sikorsky has completed production of a new S-92 helicopter for the Irish Coast Guard under the rescue service's €500 million deal with CHC Ireland.

The US-based helicopter firm and CHC formalised the purchase on Wednesday (21 December) with Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds during a hand-over ceremony at the S-92 commercial helicopter assembly facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

Equipped for dedicated search and rescue (SAR) operations, the helicopter will provide coverage for deep Atlantic Ocean missions, service Ireland's offshore islands and provide rescue cover on the west coast from Cork to Galway.

The new aircraft will be based at Shannon and will replace the current coastguard SAR helicopter, a Sikorsky S-61, which has given 20 years of unbroken service.

According to Sikorsky, the S-92 is equipped with advanced systems and hardware, including an automated flight control system that enables the pilot to fly pre-programmed search patterns and perform delicate hover manoeuvres; a wireless intercom allowing a rescue swimmer to communicate with the crew; radio transceivers to communicate with ships and rescue services; a weather radar and infrared sensor; and a digital video system to record rescues.

Reynolds said the new helicopter - which joins four second-hand machines on a 10-year lease - represents a stepped improvement in Ireland's ability to care for and service its seagoing, coastal and island communities.

"I am very happy that the Coast Guard will operate what I consider to be the leading SAR helicopter in the world," he added.

As reported earlier this year on Afloat.ie, the new chopper is part of a deal that raised questions from a Fine Gael TD over allegations that a competing tender did not have a "good reputation".

Fergus O'Dowd questioning the contract with CHC Ireland after receiving documents in which Chris Reynolds said the Air Corps – whose helicopters are supplied by AgustaWestland - were uneqipped for the role and that no cost saving would be made if they took on the service.

Published in Coastguard

#FISHING - Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has begun the consultation process for a proposed new deep-sea fish farm in the Aran Islands, The Irish Times reports.

The 15,000-tonne organic salmon farm would be located off Inis Oírr on a 500-hectare site in Galway Bay, and would be one of the largest of its kind in Europe.

Approval of the project could see the creation of 350 direct and 150 indirect jobs, says BIM. It will be owned by the body on behalf of the State but leased to operators on a franchise basis.

The scheme has been welcomed by Comhar Caomhán Inis Oírr, but the island co-op said it was important that a promised €8-million pier for the island is constructed first to provide the necessary infrastructure.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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