The Irish Fisherman’s Organisation will discuss how much energy it will invest in the referendum and how to maximise the vote in coastal communities. The IFO advocates rejection of the treaty because it said it copper-fastens a two-tier approach to regulation across the union’s fishing communities. And it believes Ireland should have got guarantees on fishing rights and a new quota system when it sought assurances after last year’s vote.
Chairman of the IFO, Ebbie Sheehan, said fishermen feel they have no influence on decision-making either in Ireland or Europe and want this to change.
And he said there was disappointment that fishing issues were not part of the package negotiated by Ireland in June, which included commitments on neutrality, a permanent commissioner, abortion and workers’ rights.
“If Minister [Micheál] Martin in his discussions with the EU had even bothered to ask if there was a possibility for Ireland to get more quota from an unfair EU system . . . then we might have been looking at a different approach to Lisbon now,” he said.
The IFO was not an active lobby in last year’s referendum as it has only been reordered under the command of working fishermen since November.
The producers’ organisations, which were traditionally the lead lobbyists for the industry, will not decide on a position for Lisbon until a board meeting in early September.
However, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, Lorcan O Cinnéide, said he is personally in favour of the referendum and believes nothing will be achieved by fishing communities rejecting it a second time.
The IFO’s Lisbon campaign is expected to kick-start a fresh drive by fishermen ahead of a promised overhaul of the Common Fisheries Policy [CFP] at European level.
Early in September the IFO will meet their counterparts from Scotland, France and Denmark in Dublin to discuss potential common ground ahead of the CFP review.
Tomorrow’s meeting comes in tandem with another development in Europe with the potential to create massive division across the union’s fishing community.
Ireland North West MEP Pat “The Cope” Gallagher will shortly be installed as leader of the European Parliament’s delegation to Iceland during its membership negotiations.
Iceland’s stricken economy is desperate to join the EU to protect its currency and rebuild its institutions.
However, fishing is its primary industry and it has resisted overtures from the EU in the past because of irreconcilable differences with maritime policy.
The country would have to compromise with any reworked CFP in order to secure membership.
Mr Gallagher, familiar with fishing interests as a Donegal deputy, was nominated by the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
He is also a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee. He sat on this during his last two terms in Europe and is a former vice-chairman of the committee.