The Irish Fish Producer’s Organisation (IFPO), which represents the owners of commercial sea-fishing vessels, said it was “disproportionate” and had “degraded” vessel owners and their families.
Revenue officials, gardaí, and other agencies raided vessels in Howth, Co Dublin, and Castletownbere, Co Cork, on Wednesday as part of an investigation targeting undocumented workers.
“Having taken legal advice, it is my understanding that such a deployment ought to be in situations of potential for loss of life or physical violence. That was certainly not the case here and it could not be argued by any rational person that it was the case,” said IFPO chief Francis O’Donnell.
He has lodged a formal complaint with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. He said the community deserved not to be treated as participants “in some sort of criminal gang” and said the State had brought the industry “to the lowest possible level”.
It is understood the raids are a follow-up to a decision by the State to make 500 special permits available for non-EU citizens to work in the Irish fishing industry. Ken Fleming, of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), said only 159 permits have been applied for. Mr O’Donnell said as recently as last Thursday he made representations through their solicitors requesting changes to the permit scheme because parts of it are unworkable.
However, Mr Fleming said he had initiated negotiations with fish producers on the scheme in March but they had rejected any solutions the ITF put forward and had “disappeared” from talks. “Now, given the low take-up of permits and ongoing complaints received about low and no pay and unilateral dismissals of fishermen who requested a permit, the Department of Justice had no alternative but to engage in Wednesday’s ship visits,” he said.