Brexit protest: Furious Irish fishermen to march on PM’s office – UK deal ‘theft’ attacked

Cork fishing protest flotilla heads towards River Lee

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The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) organised the protest, which is taking place this morning after a flotilla of 50 trawlers started sailing from Roche’s Point at Cork Harbour at 7am. They are then due to sail up the River Lee to Horgan’s Quay to personally deliver a letter to Mr Martin to demand a fair share of the fish that swim in Irish waters. Their fury comes after the Brexit deal, which was agreed between the UK and EU last December, will result in Irish fishermen losing millions of euros in earnings as they will only be able to fish 15 percent of the stocks in Irish waters, while the UK will have access to 75 percent.

ISWFPO CEO Patrick Murphy said this morning’s campaign aimed to highlight “the plundering of our greatest natural resource”.

He said: “After a short rally, fishermen and their families will walk in solidarity to Taoiseach Micheal Martin’s office on Evergreen Road in Turners Cross to hand deliver a letter outlining the plight of the industry.

“Moreover, it is estimated that job losses of 4,000 or more in both the catching sector at sea and the processing sector onshore will inevitably follow these savage cuts.”

Mr Murphy added workers in the fishing industry were also left angry after the EU Commission introduced a control plan that requires fishermen to weigh their fish on the pier.

He said Irish fishermen have already invested in refrigerated fish holds, ice-making machines and refrigerated salt-water plants instead.

He said: “Producers likewise have spent vast sums to have the very highest standards of hygiene while handling this product.

“We are now to ignore this best practice, and weigh on piers open to all the elements and wild life such as sea gulls.

“We know that capitulation by fishermen to these draconian measures [introduced in the wake of Brexit] will sound the death knell to our industry which will also lead to the wipe out of our coastal communities.

“We know this as State agency reports, such as those from BIM [Bord Iascaigh Mhara] show the importance of our fishing industry in maintaining the economic and cultural wellbeing of rural communities all along our rugged island coastline.

“The vast majority of our members share these worries but not because they cannot trade or continue the profession that was passed down to them from their fathers and mothers but because their rights have been stripped away.”

Mr Murphy also said Irish fishermen should be allowed to have the same “equal opportunities” as EU fishermen.

He said: “They now find themselves the pawn on the chess board of Europe to be sacrificed so larger countries may triumph.

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“It is not a big ask to have equal opportunities to mirror that of our European fishermen and indeed the UK vessels fishing in our waters. It is long past time that we receive a fair share of the fish quota in our waters.

“It is neither reasonable nor just to expect the Irish fleet to stay in port while foreign fleets with multiples of our quota in our waters remain fishing unimpeded, thus denying our fishers the right to earn a living.”

The Irish fishing industry is worth more than €1 billion to the Irish economy.

It is also vital to the sustainability of coastal communities, with more than 16,000 local people working in fishing and processing.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said he understood the “challenges and pain” fishermen are facing.

He added he is committed to working “hand in hand” with them to overcome their plight.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he added it is important to recognise that fisheries have been most impacted by Brexit.

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