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Coalition backs down in fisheries bill row

Noel Dempsey

By Michael O’Farrell, Political Reporter
THE Government last night agreed a major last-minute concession to rebel backbenchers to ensure the smooth passage of the controversial Fisheries Bill through the Oireachtas.

In a move which will be portrayed as a significant climbdown by opponents, Communications Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey, told an emergency meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs last night that he will bring forward extra legislation to introduce a system of administrative penalties for technical and minor fishery offences.

The promise was also referred to in a letter from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to several Fianna Fáil TDs yesterday.

The contentious Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill has caused bitter debate among Fianna Fáil TDs from coastal constituencies and prompted a sustained backbench campaign against proposed measures to criminalise illegal over-fishing.

Mr Dempsey has already been forced to alter the bill significantly, dropping navy powers to fire on fishing boats, proposals to forfeit the vessels of repeat offenders and agreeing to graduated fines based on vessel size.

But despite the changes, fishing industry representatives and backbenchers remained up in arms over Mr Dempsey’s determination to introduce hefty criminal penalties as a deterrent to those involved in over-fishing.

Instead they argued for a system of less punitive administrative penalties - a suggestion that’ has been repeatedly rejected by Mr Dempsey.

In a 45-minute meeting with up to 15 backbench Fianna Fáil TDs in Leinster House yesterday, Mr Dempsey committed to bringing forward new legislation, following consultation with the fishing industry, to implement an administrative system once the current Fisheries Bill is enacted.

Those present at the meeting understood that the new legislation is to be introduced within months.

Just hours later, the Fisheries Bill was voted through the Dáil and passed to the Seanad.

A letter from the Taoiseach was also circulated yesterday in which he specifically addresses the issue of administrative penalties. The letter, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, indicates that "the main outstanding concern related to whether minor offences could be dealt with through administrative sanctions".

Mr Ahern’s letter then outlines the technical difficulties in determining which offences can be treated as minor breaches before going on to indicate that administrative penalties will be put back on the table in discussions with fishing representatives once the Fisheries Bill is enacted.

"Those discussions can also address whether there is potential, in the context of developing Common Fisheries Policy, to introduce, at a future date, a system of administrative penalties, which clearly could only be envisaged for minor offences. In the circumstances, I propose that we process the bill through the House today," the letter reads.

 

Coalition backs down in fisheries bill row

Noel Dempsey

By Michael O’Farrell, Political Reporter
THE Government last night agreed a major last-minute concession to rebel backbenchers to ensure the smooth passage of the controversial Fisheries Bill through the Oireachtas.

In a move which will be portrayed as a significant climbdown by opponents, Communications Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey, told an emergency meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs last night that he will bring forward extra legislation to introduce a system of administrative penalties for technical and minor fishery offences.

The promise was also referred to in a letter from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to several Fianna Fáil TDs yesterday.

The contentious Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill has caused bitter debate among Fianna Fáil TDs from coastal constituencies and prompted a sustained backbench campaign against proposed measures to criminalise illegal over-fishing.

Mr Dempsey has already been forced to alter the bill significantly, dropping navy powers to fire on fishing boats, proposals to forfeit the vessels of repeat offenders and agreeing to graduated fines based on vessel size.

But despite the changes, fishing industry representatives and backbenchers remained up in arms over Mr Dempsey’s determination to introduce hefty criminal penalties as a deterrent to those involved in over-fishing.

Instead they argued for a system of less punitive administrative penalties - a suggestion that’ has been repeatedly rejected by Mr Dempsey.

In a 45-minute meeting with up to 15 backbench Fianna Fáil TDs in Leinster House yesterday, Mr Dempsey committed to bringing forward new legislation, following consultation with the fishing industry, to implement an administrative system once the current Fisheries Bill is enacted.

Those present at the meeting understood that the new legislation is to be introduced within months.

Just hours later, the Fisheries Bill was voted through the Dáil and passed to the Seanad.

A letter from the Taoiseach was also circulated yesterday in which he specifically addresses the issue of administrative penalties. The letter, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, indicates that "the main outstanding concern related to whether minor offences could be dealt with through administrative sanctions".

Mr Ahern’s letter then outlines the technical difficulties in determining which offences can be treated as minor breaches before going on to indicate that administrative penalties will be put back on the table in discussions with fishing representatives once the Fisheries Bill is enacted.

"Those discussions can also address whether there is potential, in the context of developing Common Fisheries Policy, to introduce, at a future date, a system of administrative penalties, which clearly could only be envisaged for minor offences. In the circumstances, I propose that we process the bill through the House today," the letter reads.

 

Coalition backs down in fisheries bill row

Noel Dempsey

By Michael O’Farrell, Political Reporter
THE Government last night agreed a major last-minute concession to rebel backbenchers to ensure the smooth passage of the controversial Fisheries Bill through the Oireachtas.

In a move which will be portrayed as a significant climbdown by opponents, Communications Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey, told an emergency meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs last night that he will bring forward extra legislation to introduce a system of administrative penalties for technical and minor fishery offences.

The promise was also referred to in a letter from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to several Fianna Fáil TDs yesterday.

The contentious Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill has caused bitter debate among Fianna Fáil TDs from coastal constituencies and prompted a sustained backbench campaign against proposed measures to criminalise illegal over-fishing.

Mr Dempsey has already been forced to alter the bill significantly, dropping navy powers to fire on fishing boats, proposals to forfeit the vessels of repeat offenders and agreeing to graduated fines based on vessel size.

But despite the changes, fishing industry representatives and backbenchers remained up in arms over Mr Dempsey’s determination to introduce hefty criminal penalties as a deterrent to those involved in over-fishing.

Instead they argued for a system of less punitive administrative penalties - a suggestion that’ has been repeatedly rejected by Mr Dempsey.

In a 45-minute meeting with up to 15 backbench Fianna Fáil TDs in Leinster House yesterday, Mr Dempsey committed to bringing forward new legislation, following consultation with the fishing industry, to implement an administrative system once the current Fisheries Bill is enacted.

Those present at the meeting understood that the new legislation is to be introduced within months.

Just hours later, the Fisheries Bill was voted through the Dáil and passed to the Seanad.

A letter from the Taoiseach was also circulated yesterday in which he specifically addresses the issue of administrative penalties. The letter, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, indicates that "the main outstanding concern related to whether minor offences could be dealt with through administrative sanctions".

Mr Ahern’s letter then outlines the technical difficulties in determining which offences can be treated as minor breaches before going on to indicate that administrative penalties will be put back on the table in discussions with fishing representatives once the Fisheries Bill is enacted.

"Those discussions can also address whether there is potential, in the context of developing Common Fisheries Policy, to introduce, at a future date, a system of administrative penalties, which clearly could only be envisaged for minor offences. In the circumstances, I propose that we process the bill through the House today," the letter reads.

 

Coalition backs down in fisheries bill row

Noel Dempsey

By Michael O’Farrell, Political Reporter
THE Government last night agreed a major last-minute concession to rebel backbenchers to ensure the smooth passage of the controversial Fisheries Bill through the Oireachtas.

In a move which will be portrayed as a significant climbdown by opponents, Communications Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey, told an emergency meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs last night that he will bring forward extra legislation to introduce a system of administrative penalties for technical and minor fishery offences.

The promise was also referred to in a letter from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to several Fianna Fáil TDs yesterday.

The contentious Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill has caused bitter debate among Fianna Fáil TDs from coastal constituencies and prompted a sustained backbench campaign against proposed measures to criminalise illegal over-fishing.

Mr Dempsey has already been forced to alter the bill significantly, dropping navy powers to fire on fishing boats, proposals to forfeit the vessels of repeat offenders and agreeing to graduated fines based on vessel size.

But despite the changes, fishing industry representatives and backbenchers remained up in arms over Mr Dempsey’s determination to introduce hefty criminal penalties as a deterrent to those involved in over-fishing.

Instead they argued for a system of less punitive administrative penalties - a suggestion that’ has been repeatedly rejected by Mr Dempsey.

In a 45-minute meeting with up to 15 backbench Fianna Fáil TDs in Leinster House yesterday, Mr Dempsey committed to bringing forward new legislation, following consultation with the fishing industry, to implement an administrative system once the current Fisheries Bill is enacted.

Those present at the meeting understood that the new legislation is to be introduced within months.

Just hours later, the Fisheries Bill was voted through the Dáil and passed to the Seanad.

A letter from the Taoiseach was also circulated yesterday in which he specifically addresses the issue of administrative penalties. The letter, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, indicates that "the main outstanding concern related to whether minor offences could be dealt with through administrative sanctions".

Mr Ahern’s letter then outlines the technical difficulties in determining which offences can be treated as minor breaches before going on to indicate that administrative penalties will be put back on the table in discussions with fishing representatives once the Fisheries Bill is enacted.

"Those discussions can also address whether there is potential, in the context of developing Common Fisheries Policy, to introduce, at a future date, a system of administrative penalties, which clearly could only be envisaged for minor offences. In the circumstances, I propose that we process the bill through the House today," the letter reads.