Trawlers to blockade €300m Greystones harbour development
‘Extremely smelly, gone-off bait’ in conflict with new €1m waterside homes
The Marine Village development near Greystones harbour in Co Wicklow. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
A bitter feud in which the fishing fleet in Greystones, Co Wicklow claims it has been excluded from the town’s harbour, which has been redeveloped at a cost of €300 million, is set to come to a head on Saturday.
Commercial fishing boats, whose owners have been told they are “illegally” using a pier in recent weeks, are set to blockade the harbour in a mass protest.
Gardaí have already been called in amid accusations of ropes and a boat being impounded by harbour operators BJ Marinas, an associate of the international yacht brokerage BJ Marine.
Commercial fishers claim their work has been central to Greystones harbour for generations, but that they have been excluded since its redevelopment as a marine leisure and residential quarter. The work took place under a public private partnership between Wicklow County Council and the Sispar building consortium.
Three-storey terraced houses in the harbour are selling for €1 million each, while the fishermen claim they were “betrayed” over plans for an area where they could unload their catches.
Cllr Derek Mitchell, a champion of the redeveloped harbour, said the reality was that it “was not designed” for fishing facilities.
“Whether it should have been or not is another matter,” he said, adding that the difficulty in providing space for the fishing fleet was that “the bait used is extremely smelly, gone-off fish”.
Tom Fortune, Cathaoirleach of the town’s Municipal District Committee, is a supporter of the fishing fleet and said he hoped to organise talks between the parties next week. However, Mr Mitchell said “it is not obvious what can be done” to help them.
Ivan Toole, skipper of the Golden Venture, was last month issued with a notice from BJ Marinas, acting as harbour master, that his boat was “moored illegally”. The harbour master last week moved a boat belonging to Eric O’Reilly from the pier to the marina, and on another occasion the harbour master removed ropes which had been left when a fishing boat left the harbour.
Mr Toole said the fishing boat owners had tried to work around other harbour users and get their catch unloaded “from the public pier” but they were hindered and their access across the building site to a nearby road had been blocked.
In a statement to The Irish Times, BJ Marinas said it was “very concerned”. It said it had taken a lease on the harbour and marina and had seemingly walked into a row that was not of its making.
The statement said the north pier was not blocked to keep the fishermen out, but was closed to everyone for health and safety reasons because the entrance to it is across a building site where the harbour apartments are being built.
The spokesman said the company, as harbour master, had to implement bylaws and where the fishing boats had moored on the north wall was “not only inaccessible by land, but along a fairway used by marina boat traffic and not permitted under the bylaws”.
He said lines which had been left tied to the pier had been removed because they were tied to safety ladders, and because the north pier was closed.
Boat owners had been repeatedly advised “they were not permitted to berth there”, the spokesman said. “There are serious health and safety issues here and we would like to see this settled.”
A spokesman for Wicklow County Council denied the fishing fleet was excluded. He said attempts were made to facilitate the trawler owners with moorings based on a chain on the sea bed but the trawlers had not responded.