At least four Irish fishing vessels are fishing off Rockall this evening in defiance of a Scottish ban.
The Irish Government says it doesn't recognise UK sovereignty over the uninhabited rock in the North Atlantic and it rejects Scotland's warning that it will take action against Irish boats found fishing there from this weekend.
Sean O'Donoghue from the Killybegs Fishermens' Organisation says they have been briefed by the Government and they are on the same page:
"We need their absolute 100% backing. If it transpires that one Irish vessel is arrested here for fishing inside the 12-mile-zone, we expect that we'll get the full backing of the Irish Government to actually defend that illegal action being taken by Scottish authorities"
Ireland is rejecting a threat of 'enforcement action' by Scotland over the long-disputed Rockall fishing grounds.
The Scottish government says it will take action against Irish vessels found fishing within 12 miles of Rockall from this weekend onwards.
However, the Tánaiste says the government has never recognised UK sovereignty over Rockall or the sea around it.
The Scottish Government raised the issue of access to the 12 mile area around Rockall for the first time in 2017, following the Brexit Referendum.
Ireland's position is that Irish fishing vessels are legitimately pursuing EU fishing opportunities in the Rockall Zone and have done so for decades.
The Rockall row intensified this evening when the Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Marine Minister Michael Creed confirmed they had received formal notice from the Scottish Government that it is preparing to take "enforcement action" against Irish vessels.
Minister Creed says he is very disappointed to have to put the fishing industry on notice.
“The Tánaiste and I have worked very closely to avoid a situation whereby Irish fishing vessels who have been and continue to fish for haddock, squid and other species in the 12 mile area around Rockall, are under the unwarranted threat of “enforcement action” by the Scottish Government," said Minister Creed.
"However, following this sustained unilateral action by them, I have no option but to put our fishing industry on notice of the stated intention of the Scottish Government.”
Simon Coveney says they regret matters have reached this point adding that they intend to do everything possible to reach a satisfactory resolution.
"We have tried to work positively with the Scottish authorities and to deal with sensitive issues that flow from it in a spirit of kinship and collaboration," said the Tánaiste.
"We very much regret that matters have reached this point and intend to do everything possible to achieve a satisfactory resolution.”
Scottish warn Irish government in fishing dispute
Irish fishing vessels working within 12 nautical miles of the disputed territory of Rockall have been warned that they face arrest by Scottish fisheries protection vessels from today, the Irish Examiner has learned.
The surprise move by Scotland to declare a 12- mile limit around Rockall was relayed to Irish authorities within the past week, according to Government sources.
Up to half a dozen Irish vessels are currently working on squid and other species around the rich fishing grounds off Rockall, 228 nautical miles off the north-west Irish coast.
The rock, which was claimed by Britain in 1955, and incorporated as part of Scotland in 1972, is within the British exclusive economic zone.
Ireland has never recognised Britain’s claim to Rockall, although it is closer to the Scottish coast.
It is understood that Scotland’s cabinet secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Jane Hyslop has been in contact with the Government about Scotland’s rights to the rock.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Michael Creed held an urgent meeting this afternoon in Cork with Irish industry representatives.
Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Francis O’Donnell said that Mr Creed advised them that any vessel other than a Scottish or British-registered vessel faced detention if fishing within 12 nautical miles of Rockall, as and from June 7.
“The minister is not advising any Irish vessel to leave, and has said the Government will offer its full support if any Irish vessel is arrested,” Mr O’Donnell said.
Castletownbere Fishermen's Co-op manager John Nolan criticised the Scottish move as a "disgrace".
A spokesman for Mr Creed said the minister would be making a statement later this evening on the issue.