Donegal Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher, Leas Cheann Comhairle and Fianna Fail Marine spokesperson, has accused Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed of being “completely out of his depth” in dealing with Marine matters.

In a statement issued today, the long serving Donegal public representative said: “This is very apparent since last May when Statutory Instrument 89 of 2017 dealing with Penalty points for serious fishing infringements was rescinded by Dail Eireann upon a motion moved by myself as opposition Marine spokesperson and supported by a majority of the Dail."

Deputy Gallagher claimed that in the intervening three months the Minister has failed to engage with either the sector or opposition spokespersons on the matter of drafting an acceptable replacement piece of legislation to cover our EU obligation.

Deputy Gallagher also highlighted the fact that immediately after the vote he had submitted the necessary amendments and a draft which would satisfy Ireland’s obligations.

“Fianna Fail accept the need for a European Union (Common Fisheries Policy) points system for serious fishing infringements but we will not support the introduction of a system of sanctioning fishermen which does not protect the rights of our fishermen and give them their right to appeal before the Irish courts in accordance with our common law principles,” he said.

Pat the Cope stated thus far every attempt to introduce a points system by this Government or its predecessor has failed, on the greater part due to the failure of the Government to engage with the sector or accept that it simply cannot make second class citizens of our fishermen before the law – because this is unconstitutional and completely wrong to even attempt to do so.

The Supreme Court struck down a previous SI and the new SI 89 introduced by Minister Creed was still not in conformity with the judgement.

“I pointed out this on several occasions to the Minister and I even put forward the necessary amendments in order that it would comply but the Minister has totally ignored my amendments,” Deputy Gallagher continued.

And he added: “This is the shocking degree of political ineptitude on his (the Minister’s) part and a complete laissez faire approach to the affairs of the fishing sector.”

He accused the Minister of “acting recklessly” here and maintained the latter “could have easily brought forward an amended draft SI that fully complies with the Supreme Court judgement.”

The Minister has again sided with the EU officialdom and buckled down without defending the constitutional rights of our fishermen, that is an extremely sad indictment of how poorly our Minister is politically leading his Department, stated Pat the Cope.

Meantime, as a direct result of the state failing to engage with the sector and the resulting High Court actions against the state, legal costs have mounted to over €250,000 with a further potential exposure to the state of an additional €1 million in costs yet to be paid.

This is a reckless waste of public money on the part of the Minister when all that was required was a listening ear and an acceptance to sit down with the sector, Pat the Cope Gallagher concluded.

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