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Far too late to improve harbours

IMPROVING HARBOUR FACILITIES IS FAR TOO LATE By Mark McCarthy, Editor, Marine Times

You will read in this issue of the Marine Times about the amounts of money being spent to improve our harbours and the surrounding infrastructure … and the question has to be asked who is going to benefit exactly? Certainly not what remains of the Irish fishing fleet!

When this paper first hit the shelves 35 years ago this month it was crying out for improvements necessary to our piers and harbours to make our industry a world class provider of seafood and onshore ancillary industries ….. 35 years later we are getting the world class facilities but sadly the fleet is almost gone, those that remain have crumbs to fish for and whole generations of prospective fishermen have moved on to other prospects away from family and community traditions at sea.

Our onshore services have hit the heights of world class status and are the envy of other maritime nations, all of this through hard work and private investment. Sadly, they can now no longer be dependent on the Irish fleet to keep them afloat, so they have all diversified into other sectors and provide outstanding work around our coastline and beyond.

When I started work in Killybegs 32 years ago, the town was bustling, albeit it was creaking for lack of top class facilities but the work was done and it was plentiful. Thomas Pringle TD recently reminded the Minister about this in the Dail; “It used to be a place where businesses thrived and where work was easy to come by. The fishing season used to last from September to May, with fishermen working for most of the year, resulting in plenty of activity and business in the town. Each year in the last two decades, the season has gotten progressively shorter, and we are at a stage now where fishermen are lucky to get a couple of weeks work before Christmas and a few weeks after as well. This has of course had a significantly negative impact on a once-thriving community. Because it took a whole town to build and contribute to a successful fishing industry, the entire town is now taking the hit for its decline, with every family affected.”

It was no wonder that a recent meeting hosted by the Minister in Killybegs was greeted with protest, one which he didn’t take too kindly to later in interviews he gave to other publications and radio stations; “A lot of stuff that is said on social media stands up to no scrutiny. I find the biggest noises on social media adopt all strategies possible to make sure that they don’t have to stand up to their social media posts in real life.”

Would he get away with such a comment if he said that after recent farming protests held around the country? I don’t think so …

So, who exactly are all these new facilities for in our harbours now that it is far too late for our Irish fishermen to avail of?

One only has to look around; Foreign vessels landing whilst our fleets are tied up, the ORE industry licking their lips at all this wonderful quay space to operate (with more on the way … Ros a Mhil) – I really do think it will come to a stage that there will be more windmills landed in our Fishery Harbour Centres than fish caught by Irish vessels.

Even harbours that feel shortchanged by the recent investments such as Dunmore East seem to think that they will be next for development such is the influx of foreign vessels using their harbour, sure why wouldn’t they with the influx of Belgian beamers having such a large percentage of quota in our waters. Ironic for a coastline that would fit in the stretch of shoreline between Kilmore Quay and Dunmore East that they would have a majority of quota in our waters whilst Irish vessels struggle with the crumbs.

So where to next? Election season is fast approaching and as Cormac Burke (IFSA) says; “It is no longer good enough for a political candidate to stand on your doorstep and say “my party and I care for the coastal communities” – we’ve all been hearing that at every election for the past 50 years, only to soon realise that quite the opposite was true.”

Time to make politicians accountable – your vote is your choice but choose wisely for the sake and future of our fishing industry and your coastal community!

——–  Mark McCarthy, Editor, Marine Times, Ireland’s leading maritime newspaper                                                        

Tom MacSweeney

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