Fishermen warned not to put themselves at risk in peaceful protest against Russian military exercises

Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said some of its members plan to hold a protest against the military exercises next month.
Fishermen warned not to put themselves at risk in peaceful protest against Russian military exercises

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Cabinet received a comprehensive briefing from Mr Coveney over fears that Russia would invade Ukraine.

FISHERMEN who plan to peacefully disrupt Russia’s military exercises off the coast of Ireland have been warned by the Tánaiste not to put themselves at risk.

Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said some of its members plan to hold a protest against the military exercises next month.

In a statement, the group said: "We believe the impact of military sonar and live missile launches has the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path and breeding season of fish like Mackerel, Tuna and Blue Whiting in the waters of our continental shelf whilst also causing untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins."

It continued: "It is our understanding that live fire exercises cannot take place if our vessels are engaged in fishing in the area so we are discussing a plan aimed at peaceful protest in our traditional fishing area near the proposed area of the military exercise with our Vessel-owners and Skippers.

"We understand that an aircraft exclusion zone has been announced for the area but we have not yet received any notification of this nor any Marine Notice from the Irish State preventing us from fishing this area."

The artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters but within Irish-controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Mr Murphy said the area was “very important” for fishing and they wanted to protect biodiversity.

On Monday, Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said plans to hold navy military exercises off the coast of Ireland were a “non-story”.

He downplayed the significance of the exercises after concerns were raised by the Irish Government.

Simon Coveney, the foreign affairs minister, said they were “not welcome”.

When asked about the fishermen’s plans, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday: “I haven’t had the chance to speak to any of the fishermen operating in that area.

“I suppose I would just say to them that these are military vessels. Whatever they choose to do in terms of any protests, just make sure that they don’t put themselves at risk.”

Mr Varadkar said that the military exercises were happening outside Ireland’s territorial waters, leaving Ireland with no power to prevent them from happening.

“But we have made it very clear that these exercises are not welcome, particularly in the current context, when tensions are rising in relation to Ukraine,” Mr Varadkar added.

“That’s being communicated to them very strongly. There are no plans to send Irish troops to Ukraine, that hasn’t been discussed.”

Mr Varadkar said the Cabinet received a comprehensive briefing from Mr Coveney over fears that Russia would invade Ukraine.

“It is very serious. There is a real fear that we could see a land war on the continent of Europe,” he added.

In compliance with legal requirements, Russia informed Ireland’s aviation authorities in advance of the planned activities . The Irish Aviation Authority said there would be no impact on the safety of civil aircraft operations.

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