Fish producers complain to GSOC over Garda raids

Raids on Trawlers in Howth and Castletownbere condemned as heavy handed

It is understood that the raids involved armed members of the force accompanied by members of the Garda Dog Unit as well as officials from Revenue and Customs and officials from the Workplace Relations Commission.

It is understood that the raids involved armed members of the force accompanied by members of the Garda Dog Unit as well as officials from Revenue and Customs and officials from the Workplace Relations Commission.

 

The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) has made a formal complaint to GSOC about the manner in which armed gardaí were deployed during raids on trawlers as part of an investigation into the use of migrant labour in the fishing industry.

IFPO chief executive Francis O’Donnell condemned the raids carried out by a number of state agencies on up to 20 trawlers in Howth in Co Dublin and about 12 trawlers in Castletownbere in Co Cork on Wednesday morning.

It is understood that the raids involved armed members of the force accompanied by members of the Garda Dog Unit as well as officials from Revenue and Customs and officials from the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr O’Donnell said that he had taken legal advice from IFPO solicitor Dermot Conway and he said it was clear that deployment of armed gardaí and gardaí with dogs was “clearly disproportionate to the situation”.

“I personally feel that the use of firearms has degraded us all and especially vessel owners and their families. I am bewildered at the approach taken by the State,” said Mr O’Donnell, whose organisation represents about 1,000 fishermen and women.

“Having taken legal advice, it is my understanding that such a deployment ought to be in situations of potential for loss of life or physical violence. That was certainly not the case here and it could not be argued by any rational person that it was the case,” he said.

Mr O’Donnell said he had requested a meeting with Minister for the Marine Michael Creed and he had also arranged for questions to be raised in the Dáil about the raids and the manner in which they were carried out.

“As a community we are entitled to be treated with respect and not as if we are participants in some sort of organised criminal gang that we have all become accustomed to hearing about and seeing on our TV screens,” said Mr O’ Donnell.

Maintenance work

Trawler skipper Denis Faherty said he was stopped twice at Garda checkpoints at Sutton and at the entrance to Howth Harbour while on his way to carry out maintenance work on his trawler in Howth.

“I was working below deck and after about half an hour a garda with a machine gun arrived down to me to tell me that there was a fellow from the Workplace Relations Commission who wanted to speak to me on the quayside so I went up to see him,” he said.

“He asked me how many were working on the boat. I told him two. ‘Had we had foreign nationals working on her?’ I said no. Now he wasn’t hostile or aggressive when he was questioning me, but he had about 20 officials around him when he was doing it.

“I reckon that between gardaí, revenue and Workplace Relations Commission people, there were about 50 people involved in this including gardaí with machine guns and Alsatians – it was utterly over the top and I dread to think what the whole operation cost.”

The raids were part of an investigation into the use of migrant labour from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries in the Irish fishing fleet. Last February, the State made 500 special permits available to such fishermen but only 159 have been taken up to date.

Mr O’Donnell said that as recently as September 29th, the IFPO had made representations to the Inter Departmental Task Force on the use of non-EEA fishermen requesting changes be made to the permit scheme as parts of it are unworkable.

“The urgency of a review is now apparent for all to see in the event of yesterday’s happenings,” said Mr O’Donnell, adding that any IFPO member who was put in fear during the raids has the right to consider taking legal action for compensation for assault.

A Revenue spokeswoman said its personnel were involved in the searches but the Garda was the lead agency.