A leading west Cork fish supplier and former Fine Gael campaign manager has added his voice to criticism of the short timeline for registering for a postal vote in this general election.
Donal Kelly, managing director of Fast Fish in Castletownbere, says he is also very disappointed in the absence of any emphasis on the marine sector in the various party campaigns, given the critical impact that Britain’s exit from the EU will have on the fishing industry.
Mr Kelly whose company has an annual turnover of about €15m, said he was “totally disillusioned with politics”, having previously worked as a director of elections for former Cork South-West Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington.
“From the handling of the postal vote, which will disenfranchise anyone at sea who didn’t register on time, to the television leaders’ debates where marine doesn’t get a look in, this election is not addressing the enormous impact Brexit will have,” Mr Kelly said. “We need to know who is going to be negotiating on the fishing industry’s behalf in critical trade talks with Britain."
Mr Kelly said that postal votes counted in coastal constituencies, but new postal voters would be disenfranchised after the register for postal voting closed in all constituencies two days after the general election was called.
However, existing postal voters should be on the register, with a deadline of receipt of the vote by the evening of February 7.
Fine Gael has one of the lengthiest policies on the marine sector in its manifesto, much of which is drawn from the Government’s “Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth” strategy, including a commitment to “investigating the practicalities and merits” of establishing an offshore maritime area as Ireland’s seventh national park.
Fianna Fáíl promises to safeguard Ireland’s interest in future EU-UK discussions and promises to seek EU “Brexit contingency” funding for fishermen. It also promises to introduce an “Oceans Act “ and review the contentious Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act.
Labour promises to set up maritime conservation zones, and expand the Naval Service, while the Green Party wants to ban offshore salmon farming and designate 50% of Irish territorial waters as marine protected areas.
This 50% figure is regarded as unrealistic by Social Democrats Wicklow constituency candidate Jennifer Whitmore, who is a former Marine Institute scientist. Her party favours establishing marine protected areas based on scientific evidence and local community consultation, along with a blue carbon strategy and a ban on supertrawlers in Irish waters.
Sinn Féin is also prioritising a ban on supertrawlers, but extending to EU level.