Fishermen set to resume blockades as Government ignores deadline

ANGRY scallop fishermen are expected to wreak havoc at some of the country’s major ports after lifting a suspension yesterday on the threat of blockades.

The Government failed to meet yesterday’s 5pm deadline on the offer of an aid package to scallop fishermen anxious to get out of the industry.

Claiming that livelihoods in the fishing industry in the south east remain at risk due to EU limitations on fishing, scallop crews have threatened to resume port protests.

The Department of Communications and Marine said any disruption to ports was a matter for port authorities.

Last night, fishermen in Wexford were playing their cards close to their chests but the country’s busiest port, Dublin, is believed to be most at risk from disruptive action.

The fishermen are seeking more days at sea or compensation for having their vessels tied up under an EU agreement on stock conservation.

Backed by fish processing operatives, scallop fishermen from Kilmore Quay blockaded Rosslare and Waterford ports over the Bank Holiday weekend. More than 1,500 ferry passengers experienced delays.

They suspended further action pending a response from the Government.

Junior agriculture minister John Browne, in whose Wexford constituency the scallop fishermen are mainly based, delivered a e4 million aid package proposal on their behalf and pleaded a special case with Finance Minister Brian Cowen.

However, Minister of State for the Marine Pat The Cope Gallagher has not been in direct contact with the fishermen or their representative organisations.

A spokesman insisted Mr Gallagher’s door remained open for talks. However, fishermen are reluctant to meet the minister, who warned his department had to honour the 2002 EU conservation agreement.

Joe Maddock, chairman of the Irish Fishermen’s Organisation, said scallop fishermen met in private yesterday. “The matter is in the hands of the Government,” he said. “It’s up to the department to resolve the problem.”

As the deadline passed, Mr Maddock said he was disappointed the Government had not responded to the fishermen’s offer.

The IFO chairman said he remained hopeful the matter would be resolved.

He said Government aid would allow some of the fishermen buy their way out of the business, releasing a larger quota of fishing days for those that remain. Mr Browne was not available for comment last night.

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