Irish fishermen claim Government favouring UK vessels in ‘sea border’ row

Seanad to pass Amendment allowing fishing boats from North access to southern waters

Two Northern Ireland registered fishing boats seized by Naval Service   in  February. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Two Northern Ireland registered fishing boats seized by Naval Service in February. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Fishermen living in the Republic have condemned the Government decision to rush through an amendment to legislation which will give Northern Ireland vessels access to Irish waters.

The Seanad will on Thursday pass the Irish Fisheries (Amendment) Bill that has been at committee stage in the Upper House since 2017; it will then go to the Dáil before the end of the month.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), which represents owners of commercial vessels, claims the Government will allow UK vessels fish Irish waters without knowing if the arrangement will be reciprocal after March 29th when the UK is scheduled to withdraw from the EU.

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The move to allow northern vessels access to the six-mile (9.6km) fishery zone from the coast follows the recent detention by the Naval Service of two northern-registered vessels in Dundalk Bay. The skippers were subsequently given the benefit of the Probation Act when their case came to court in Drogheda, Co Louth.

In a statement on Sunday the IFPO said: “Government seems to think it’s okay to give access to UK-registered vessels to fish inside our six-mile limit prior to knowing if we will have any access to UK waters in a few weeks’ time.”

It has been illegal for vessels from the North to fish in the six-mile zone since a 2016 Supreme Court decision following a High Court case taken by four mussel fishermen, but southern vessels are allowed fish north of the Border.

Minister for the Marine Michael Creed said all they were doing was extending rights to northern fishermen that fishermen in the South currently enjoy north of the Border.

He said post-Brexit it was the right of any sovereign government to review such arrangements. But in his opinion such reciprocal arrangements were intended as part of the Belfast Agreement and were a good thing on an ongoing basis.

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