“Minister Michael Creed and his officials have effectively turned their backs on the fishing industry.”
That view from Castletownbere in West Cork by the chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick Murphy, criticising the minister for the marine who is from Macroom in mid-Cork, represents a new low in relationships between the industry and the Government.
The country’s four major fish producer organisations are in serious dispute with the Department of the Marine over assistance the industry has sought due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The department has rejected the industry’s view.
Today is crucial in the dispute. It is the closing day for applications to be made for inclusion in a support scheme offered by the department, which has been described by the Irish South and West Fish Producers in Castletownbere as “botched and unfit for purpose.”
The Castletownbere organisation has acted jointly with the other three producer groups — the Irish South and East based in Co Waterford; the Irish Fish Producers, and the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, in criticising the minister and his department. They say they form the backbone of a €1.22bn industry which supports more than 16,000 jobs.
Following several meetings between the fishing bodies and the department in recent weeks, Mr Creed announced a voluntary tie-up scheme earlier this month.
The industry proposed its own version that, it said, would match fishing supply with market demand.
The department countered, saying its scheme was a “safety net” and was not designed to replace viable fishing activity.
“It is up to fishing vessel owners to decide whether to tie-up or keep fishing and in line with government policy of keeping the food chain operating. It would be a positive sign if the take-up of this scheme is low and that the safety net provided through the scheme is used only by the minimum number of vessels.”
However, Mr Murphy said: “The entire industry is united in unequivocal rejection of a botched and ham-fisted scheme proposed by the minister and his department which will not succeed. The level of anger in the fishing industry has never been seen before.
“Crucially, not one single cent of new financial support is being made available to the industry. We need a workable scheme which will give us the best chance to survive and be a key industry. Small investment by our minister aided by the European Commission, which has offered support, will return many times its value in sustaining a very important food supply and coastal communities that so desperately depend on our industry,” he said.
How many applications will be made for the department’s scheme today will tell a lot, but it seems this is a row that may not end quickly