Nine bodies oversee Ireland’s islands but who’s in charge?

Farming flourished with EU membership but fishing suffered, Dáil told

The boat to Inisbofin off the coast of Mayo. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

The boat to Inisbofin off the coast of Mayo. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Nine Government Departments and agencies have a role in dealing with coastal and island communities but questions have been raised about who has responsibility for overall co-ordination.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan also said EU membership has been good for farming but fisheries have suffeered, particularly fisherman with smaller boats.

She noted that Ireland is not included in the EU’s coastal periphery maritime region section and nor does the State have a representative, which she described as “surprising”.

Referring to the policy role of nine departments and agencies in coastal and island communities she asked: “What one person is drawing all that together, particularly in regard to the islands”.

The Dublin Central TD called for a Minister of State to be appointed with specific responsibilities for the islands, if their sustainability was to be taken seriously.

Ms O’Sullivan was speaking during debate on a report: “Promoting Sustainable Rural Coastal and Island Communities”, which was published in January last year but only debate in the Dáil on Friday.

Chairman of the committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine Andrew Doyle, who introduced the report said “it is imperative that Ireland’s distinctive rural coastal areas and islands are developed in a sustainable manner into the future”.

He said that “as well as their rich influence on national culture and language, the communities have the potential to make a significant contribution to the wider economy in areas such as food, tourism and marine energy”.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe highlighted developments in the Irish seafood sector which is now worth €800 million annually and supports 11,000 jobs primarily in coastal areas.

Speaking for Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney who was launching the ocean wealth conference on Friday in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, he said “there is significant scope for further value expansion in our seafood sector in the years ahead”.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle said the report arose from the fall-out of the ban on drift netting for salmon, implemented in 2004, and the harm the ban had on island and coastal communities.

The Donegal South West TD said the population of Aranmore island had halved.

Up to 23 Donegal island fishermen have refused the Government’s drift net ban compensation and have campaigned for recognition of their dependence on the sea and for policies at national and European level that would reflect this.

Mr Pringle said that “rather than slavishly following EU regulation and implementing EU law as rigidly as possible, we should be adapting policy to support our communities”.