Fishermen cleared of bringing in illegal workers

Two fishermen were cleared yesterday of charges to bring illegal migrant workers into Ireland to work on trawlers in what the State claimed was a “calculated scam”.

Fishermen cleared of bringing in illegal workers

Leonard Hyde, aged 62, of Four Winds, Weavers Point, Crosshaven, Co Cork, and Pat O’Mahony, aged 51, of 69 Elton Wood, Kinsale, Co Cork, were accused of having no work permits for non-Irish staff and knowingly facilitating their entry into the State, contrary to the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000.

Judge Aingil Ní Chondúin, at Cork District Court, said the mindset of the accused was an important aspect of the case. Dismissing the charges, she said: “They face very serious charges before the court and if an element of doubt creeps in, it must be given to the accused. That is what I intend to do with the charges before the court.”

Solicitor David Browne, for the accused, said: “It is a question of mental intention. They have been very honest and forthright. They have said at all times they did not know it was illegal, they did not know it was wrong, they had no grounds for suspicion that it was illegal or wrong.

“This was not a scheme to bring in people illegally.

“It is an odious and serious crime and this is not one for which this legislation was brought in.”

Inspector John Deasy said two Filipino fishermen had been met in Belfast and brought to Cork. “The reason these people came through Belfast was if they presented at Cork or Dublin Airport or Ringaskiddy port, their legality in the jurisdiction would have come under the scrutiny of immigration officers. By coming through Belfast, they bypassed that safeguard of the State.

“This was a calculated scam to get people without employment permits to come into this country knowing full well they should not be here.”

The co-owners of the Labardie Fisher said they paid their agent Diamond H Marine Services and Shipping Agency to do all the paperwork, visa applications and so on in relation to the two Filipinos in 2015. They also said the law was changed the following year to provide atypical contracts to facilitate Filipino fishermen working on trawlers.

Mr O’Mahony said that far from trying to conceal his trip to Belfast, he posted it on Facebook and told all his friends. “Most of the boats in the country were using the same system. I am shocked I am here [in court] today to be honest.”

Mr Hyde said: “We were informed by the agent if they were working on the boat 12 miles out and living on the boat, they were covered.”

Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation official John Tattan said, in 2015, what the two men did was entirely in compliance with regulations.

Afterwards, Mr Hyde said: “It was two years of absolute torment. Trying to fish and put up with all of this.”

Mr O’Mahony said: “The support [from fishermen] was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. It was a life-changer for us. We never harmed anyone in our lives. So thank God that justice was done.”

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