By Dominic McGrath, PA
Representatives of the Irish fishing industry will meet with the Russian ambassador on Thursday amid an ongoing row about navy exercises off the Irish coast.
The Russian 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 (EEZ).
However, the drills have ignited controversy and have been criticised by Taoiseach Micheal Martin, who branded them “not welcome”.
Fishermen have also raised their own concerns and will meet with the Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov on Thursday.
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said it was a significant step to be invited to a meeting with the ambassador.
He said that the group wanted Russian navy exercises to move away from the fishing grounds used by Irish boats.
“It is not like we’re going to disrupt them. They disrupt us,” he said.
“We want them to move away from the fishing grounds.”
In compliance with legal requirements, Russia informed Ireland’s aviation authorities of the planned activities in advance.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said there would be no impact on the safety of civil aircraft operations.
Mr Filatov this week insisted that the naval exercises, coming amid ongoing tensions at the Ukraine-Russia border, are a “non-story”.
Mr Murphy said it was a “huge” step to secure a meeting with the ambassador and it signalled progress for the group.
“He is not meeting with the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste or the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is meeting with us to discuss it. I think that’s huge.”