We must learn from Pisces tragedy, says minister

The Pisces fishing tragedy in which five people died must never happen again, the Marine Minister vowed today.

The Pisces fishing tragedy in which five people died must never happen again, the Marine Minister vowed today.

Locals in Co Wexford criticised the €1,000 fine given to skipper Patrick Barden, who was found guilty of running an unsafe ship under 1981 legislation.

But Pat the Cope Gallagher said today that new laws include tighter regulations and stiffer penalties.

Mr Barden was cleared of manslaughter and reckless endangerment by a jury at Wexford Circuit Court yesterday.

But Mr Gallagher said today: “I have made it a priority to put safety at sea at the top of my agenda.

“Hopefully we can learn from this tragedy and ensure there will not be a reoccurrence.”

Five passengers died when the 26ft trawler sank in July 2002 during an angling trip off Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford.

The Donegal South West TD said provisions in the Merchant Shipping Act 2005 will come into force on April 1 next year.

Under the law, penalties for non-compliance with regulations will be as high as €250,000 or two years in prison.

In addition, all boats must be licensed, lifejackets will be compulsory for under-16s on boats under seven metres (23ft), and all skippers must be qualified to operate passenger vessels.

The minister will also be rolling out a safety awareness campaign and enforcing 200 spot checks by department inspectors each year.

He said he had implemented all but two of the 20 recommendations of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board inquiry into the tragedy.

Local Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe, who knows the families of the dead, called on the Government to implement the complete 20 recommendations made by a Marine Investigation Board inquiry into the tragedy.

The jury at the trial at Wexford Circuit Court yesterday found Mr Barden not guilty of five separate manslaughter charges relating to the four men and a boy who died: James Cooney, 60, his son-in-law Seamus Doyle, 33, and grandson Mark, 13, John Cullen, 44, and Martin Roche, 67.

There were no lifejackets aboard the vessel, which sank within a minute.

After the verdict, Mr Barden said in a statement that his thoughts were with the families of the passengers who died.

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