Proposed restrictions a worry for Spanish residents


Most of the time when the people around her in Castletownbere say "those Spanish", they forget Agurtzane O'Sullivan is from Spain.

Married to Martin, a native of Adrigole on the Beara Peninsula, she works in the crèche in the town, where her two children, 16-month-old Lorea and Clodagh (4), also attend.

From Leketio, near Guernica in the Basque region, Agurtzane speaks Basque, Spanish and English. There is no anti-Spanish feeling towards individuals in the town, she said. A sales representative, her husband Martin does not work in the fishing industry.

Those Spanish whose husbands are working on Irish boats are just as worried about the restrictions proposed for the Irish fishing fleet. And they are just as affected by the arrest of boats such as the Dawn Ross.

Angeles Garcia's husband, Angel, works on the Dawn Ross. His two sisters and their husbands are also working on Irish boats in the town. The couple have been here more than six years, Angeles arriving shortly after the birth of her eldest son David. The couple now have a second son Robert (5) and both boys are at school in Castletownbere.

From Pontevdra in southern Galicia, Angeles goes to English classes on Tuesday mornings. For her, the language is the most difficult aspect of her life in Castletownbere.

But with so many Spanish friends and relatives here, and her sons now at school speaking English, Spanish and Irish, she is not as motivated to learn English as she might otherwise be, she explains.

Housing is also a problem for the Spaniards in Castletownbere. The Garcias pay €635 each month for rental alone. This is high by Spanish standards. And unlike Spain, medical bills and food prices are high. "In Spain you don't pay a doctor," Angeles explains.

The advantage however, is the children get to see more of their father than they would in Spain.

"In Spain the father, if he is a fisherman is often away three, four months, maybe six months," Agurtzane says.

The sea is a little rougher here, but the coast of Galicia is also rough and windy, and apart from the summers, Angeles says the weather is more or less the same.

Any further reductions of the quotas, and the banning of certain species would be worrying for the Spanish in Castletownbere, she said. "No fish, no money," Angeles explains - the smaller the catch, the less her husband earns.

The links between Castletownbere and their home towns in Galicia and the Basque country are close. Often a fisherman from Leketio will be in town and he will look Agurtzane up, or ask "Cornelio" and then return to tell her mother: "She's fine, I saw her."