Co-operation and a co-ordinated approach is vital to reverse the decline of the Irish fishing industry and foster growth, the Taoiseach heard at a meeting with sector representatives earlier this week. The fishing delegation said ongoing support from the Taoiseach, his Government and his party, could significantly strengthen Ireland’s voice at the EU negotiating table.
The fishing leaders said Fine Gael and Government support had played a vital role in securing a better deal for Ireland as a first step in the recent Norway blue whiting agreement. Aodh O Donnell from the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) said FG MEP Colm Markey – who was at the meeting – played a very significant role in this. “He called certain states out for their irresponsible inflated unilateral quota setting and outlined Ireland’s objections clearly and effectively.”
“Mr Markey demanded a fair outcome for Ireland from the Norway-EU negotiations and has consistently promoted our interests at EU level. We will rely on this support again as negotiations on 2024 fishing opportunities get under way shortly. In particular, there is a need for Irish representatives to hold firm on Norwegian and other third country (non-EU) access to fish in our rich waters.”
Mr O Donnell and the Taoiseach welcomed contributions to the meeting from Sinead Mac Sherry, the new Assistant Secretary at the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine. Darran Brennan, Special Adviser to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, outlined the Department’s support for the fishing delegation in the busy months ahead.
The meeting was organised by Mr Manus Boyle, MD of Killybegs Stevedoring. Mr Boyle said Ireland’s fishing sector “cannot survive and grow without a fairer share of EU quotas, as ours have been decimated by Brexit. We’ve had access to Mr Varadkar as Tánaiste and now today as Taoiseach, to present our case for growth. We need an all-of-Government approach to secure better deals from the EU. The impacts are being felt on the ground at ports such as Killybegs, whilst other nations experience continued growth.”
Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association welcomed the Taoiseach’s “keen interest in the fishing industry. Mr Varadkar has pledged his support for the sector and wants to see State agencies work closely with the industry to meet the challenges of Brexit’s impact.”
Aodh O Donnell stated that “we discussed the Brexit Adjustment Reserve measures and acknowledged the recent initiatives announced by Minister McConalogue. We pressed for ongoing collaboration between the industry and state agencies to deliver a better outcome for Ireland. The need to focus on diversification opportunities in areas such as Blue Fin Tuna were also highlighted. This species is a sustainable fishery now abundant in our waters and Ireland urgently needs to be allocated a quota to access it.”
Mr Byrne said they also discussed innovation and the need for harmonised protocols on fishing controls to encourage landing of fish into Irish Ports.
The Taoiseach concluded the meeting with a pledge to engage at the highest levels in Europe to champion Ireland’s position. The meeting was also attended by Deputy Chief of Staff to the Taoiseach, Philip O’Callaghan; Department of the Taoiseach Assistant Secretary General, John Shaw; and EU Advisor to the IFPO and IFPEA, Michael Treacy. Marine Minister, Charlie McConalogue, was represented by Department adviser Darran Brennan, and Assistant Secretary, Sinead McSherry.