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Tom MacSweeney’s Weekly Maritime Blog July 10/11

DONEGAL COUNTY COUNCIL FISHERIES COMMITTEE AND A PRIEST

I’m intrigued by the controversy in Donegal where Fr.John Joe Duffy of Creeslough has become the focus of anger from members of Donegal County Council’s Fisheries Committee, according to a report in the ‘Donegal News.’ Their anger appears to be because of a comment he made at the fisheries demonstration in Dublin where he is alleged to have compared the value which Donegal and the fishing industry has got from one of the county’s TDs, Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue,, as it got from the disappearance of dolphin Fungie in Dingle. It is reported that a letter is being circulated amongst members of the Fisheries Committee to send to the Minister which would disassociate themseles from Fr.Duffy’s comments. The priest has received support from the other end of the country – way down in Castletownbere in deepest West Cork where he has been defended by the Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation, Patrick Murphy, which group has been to the forefront in organising opposition to what it regards as the unhelpful attitude of the government towards the industry. So we have a Donegal priest, in his own heartland, being criticised by county councillors and defended from way down South. I have heard from Fr.Duffy, who is quite passionate and committed to the support of the fishing industry and coastal communities. So is Patrick Murphy and it is noticeable that the more public expressions of the coastal/fishing people recently appear to be making an impact politically. The government has a lot to contend with at the present time – the pandemic, with difficult decisions to make;, the housing issue;, and other serious matters which are receiving robust attention politically, in the media and in public debate. There is an omission in all that debate, as I perceive things – the coastal communities and their future. This week, an announcement by the European Commission did not get much national media attention, though it indicated a bureaucratic mindset in Brussels. The Commission declared that it had “adopted a proposal” to extend the ‘access to waters’’ regime of the current Common Fisheries Policy for another ten years. The justification was quoted as “to avoid any disruption in the longstanding arrangements between Member States following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. ” There was no mention of the unfairness perpetrated on Ireland and the damage to our fishing industry by the Brexit outcome. The announcement can be seen as an initial move, prior to the upcoming review of that Policy, at which the Taoiseach and Minister for the Marine have indicated they will prioritise Ireland’s right to “a fair share of the fish catches in Ireland’s waters.” That is a welcome commitment, but such commitments were made about Brexit and were not delivered upon. The Irish industry has pointed out in their recent demonstrations that there is no fairness at present, with the bigger fishing nations such as France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, carving out the best quotas for themselves and restricting Ireland to catching only 15 per cent of all the fish in Irish waters. Those are stark figures which appear quite unfair and now endanger the future of Irish coastal communities and the fishing industry upon which the economies of these communities depends. Will the Irish Government stand up to the EU; will deeds match words or will it continue to allow natural resources in Irish waters to be stripped away for the benefit of other nations, these are the questions which fishermen raise with me? So, are the Donegal County Council Fisheries Committee members, so angry with Fr.Duffy, aware of the European Commission’s decision on the “access” provisions this week? They won;t ahve heard much about it on Irish national media. As a journalist for over 50 years I am unhappy with the national media’s reportage of the fishing industry, deficient in reportage of the coastal and fishing communities problems at present and generally towards the maritime sphere., in my view, That is why,specialist maritime media and my radio programme and podcast, the MARITIME IRELAND RADIO SHOW, are needed. Perhaps those sensitive Donegal County Council Fisheries Committee members could take a wider view of the comments of Fr.Duffy, In the circumstance of the demonstration and the emotion of what was felt and expressed at Dublin Port, there is substance to consider, even if they disagree with the manne in which it was expressed.

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