A family that was denied compensation from a shortlived Government scheme when a father of eight and his son died off Donegal was the kind of thing expected in a Third World country and not a member of the EU, the European Parliament was told yesterday.
Danny Byrne brought his case to the parliament’s petitions committee in a bid to get some redress for his mother and siblings, 33 years after his father Francis, 16-year-old brother Jimmy, and three crew members drowned off the coast of north-west Donegal in October 1981.
Former Irish Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly investigated the case in 2009 and, having found several shortcomings, recommended the family be awarded €245,500. However, the Department of the Marine rejected the plan.
In her report, Ms O’Reilly highlighted several issues about the Lost at Sea scheme, including that it was not widely advertised, was open for applications for just six months in 2001, and that 75% of compensation went to just two fishermen.
After hearing the evidence yesterday, German MEP Peter Jahr said he was dismayed and added that this was the kind of story one could expect to hear about Third World countries but not about a member of the EU.
Ireland North-West MEP Jim Higgins, who introduced the case, said he was very pleased that the committee unanimously agreed to officially request the Government review the case again and compensate the family.
Committee chairwoman Eminia Mazzoni, said: “The Irish Government must find a solution to this case, and that is what we want — justice and compensation that is long overdue.”
Mr Byrne said the family didn’t care about the money but wanted to see justice being served at long last.
“We don’t understand that TDs who spoke out on our behalf when in opposition now ignore us when they are in power,” he said.
During yesterday’s hearing, the European Commission said it should have been informed about the scheme that allowed fishermen to have bigger vessels as a compensation. But since it was not and since the scheme no longer exists, it could not be considered to infringe on EU law.
However this could see the complaint return to Ms O’Reilly, now EU Ombudsman, if anybody believes the commission was culpable in any way.
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