The Minister's Magic Moments


The Minister as poet. Dr Jim McDaid, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, is speaking in beautiful surroundings in Connemara, about "the real magic that Ireland can provide for the true disciple of Isaak Walton". He visualises him sitting in his boat on one of our great inland freshwater lakes or earnestly scrutinising the tell-tale ripple from the river bank. And all the while he is "truly communing with Nature, savouring the glory of the spring evenings as the trout jump for the Mayfly." Coming down to a more convivial level, he says, your local bank manager, later on in the bar of the hotel, will regale you with the magnificent specimen that eluded him this very evening. "I tell you I was looking at JAWS." Says the Minister: "Those are the kind of magic moments that make Irish angling very special." (That particular fish got away.)

All this was at the launch in Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, of a pamphlet, The Great Fishing Houses of Ireland by a body of that name, giving their location, their fishing delights and their terms. It is a neat, pocket-sized, well-illustrated job. (Does the title, however, not imply that there are no other great fishing houses of Ireland? Would not a more accurate title be "Great Fishing Houses"? Never mind.) Dr McDaid was not all colour and romance, however. He gave precise, and perhaps to some people surprising, evidence of the importance of game fishing - salmon and trout - to our economy.

The most recent statistics, he tells us, reveal that the visiting game angler spends, on average, 25 per cent more than other anglers and "an impressive 5 per cent more than the average visitor ... Moreover game angling is mainly generated in those parts of the country where tourism provides a much needed boost to the local economy." Then, walking into contentious country, he says: "That is why it is important for us to do everything we can to avail of the potential of game angling." He refers to factors working against this: unacceptable levels of water pollution in some areas, also over-grazing by sheep, and afforestation. And, generally, "over-enrichment of the land is a contentious issue." He does not mention the sea-lice controversy.

One friend remarked that this has been a remarkably, and surprisingly, good year for sea trout, for all the lamentations. Costello Fishery reported good catches of them. But Costello, he added, does not have a salmon farm close by. Anyway, Dr McDaid is not Minister for Fisheries, and not surprisingly let all that be. Y