TDs say exploitation of foreign trawler crew is to be condemned

Representatives say they are not surprised at practices disclosed by Guardian investigation

Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív, who represents Galway West, said the issues raised affected the white or demersal fishing and not the pelagic fishing sector mackerel and herring, which is the prevalent industry on the Galway coast. Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons

Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív, who represents Galway West, said the issues raised affected the white or demersal fishing and not the pelagic fishing sector mackerel and herring, which is the prevalent industry on the Galway coast. Photograph Brenda Fitzsimons

 

TDs representing coastal communities have condemned any exploitation of foreign workers on white fish trawlers.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris said anyone involved in such practices, disclosed by a year-long investigation by the Guardian, should be “named, shamed and condemned without exception”.

Kerry TD Mr Ferris is a former fisherman and told colleagues on the Dáil’s Agriculture and Fisheries Committee yesterday that it was a very hard life.

“The majority of those who are involved in the Irish fishing industry are decent, hard-working people, struggling to make a living in a sector which has been neglected by successive governments and suffering from a lack of quota,” he said.

“The report in the Guardian highlights the need for a seafarers’ charter to protect the rights of workers on the sea, where the same protections enjoyed by land-based workers should be in force.

“At a time when fishermen are subject to the strictest vigilance regarding their quotas and catch, maybe the Irish authorities should be more vigilant about workers’ rights and conditions at sea,” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív, who represents Galway West, said the issues raised affected the white or demersal fishing and not the pelagic fishing sector mackerel and herring, which is the prevalent industry on the Galway coast.

‘Turning a blind eye’

Thomas Pringle, an Independent TD for Donegal, said he was not surprised such practices were going on.

Mr Pringle, who lives in Killybegs, the largest fishing port in the State, said that like Connemara, pelagic fishing is the main industry. He said that during the Celtic Tiger years, the white fishing fleet had a lot of difficulties getting crew and there were many permits issued to allow them recruit overseas trawler crews.

Change of policy

Mr Pringle said under no circumstances should people be treated in a way that interfered with their rights as workers. “If there is exploitation I condemn it,” he said.

Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington, who is based in Cork South West which is a key region for demersal fishing, said the indications were that a few were operating close the wrong side of the law.

“I condemn that. It’s wrong,” he said.

However, he said he believed the Guardian report over-exaggerated the extent of such abuses in the industry. He said most of the non-Irish fishermen were from Eastern Europe, but there were Spaniards, Filipinos and Egyptians as well, all of whom lived openly among the communities in fishing ports such as Castletownbere.