Flotilla arrives in Dublin to deliver 'symbolic' warning to Taoiseach

Flotilla arrives in Dublin to deliver 'symbolic' warning to Taoiseach

Protest signs on a fishing vessel docked on the Liffey in Dublin early Wednesday ahead of a demonstration. 

A flotilla of some 70 fishing vessels from around the Irish coast has steamed up the River Liffey to the National Convention Centre to highlight problems in the fishing industry.

Boats began arriving from 10.30pm last night with the Tom Clarke Bridge by the East Link raised to let them up as far as Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Once the flotilla is moored along Sir John Rogerson's Quay, they will leave their vessels and march over the bridge to the convention centre where there will be a series of speeches from about 11.30am.

A flotilla of fishing vessels which sailed from Cork, makes its way up the Liffey in Dublin early Wednesday ahead of a protest at Dublin Port. Picture: Damien Storan
A flotilla of fishing vessels which sailed from Cork, makes its way up the Liffey in Dublin early Wednesday ahead of a protest at Dublin Port. Picture: Damien Storan

A letter outlining fishing industry concerns will be delivered around 1pm to Taoiseach Micheal Martin.

He is expected to meet fishing industry representatives at the steps of the convention centre.

The gesture of handing the letter over will be a largely symbolic one as Mr Martin has already had one letter delivered to his constituency offices in Cork city - the Taoiseach also met with representatives over the weekend.

John Walsh, CEO of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, said: “It is largely symbolic as he will be well aware by now what our concerns are.

“This flotilla was organised before Mr Martin agreed to meet representatives over the weekend.

“But it is important that we highlight and keep highlighting problems in our industry.” 

The fishermen and women want the government to do more for them as they face big cuts caused by Brexit and EU quotas and controls that have heavily impacted the industry.

Brexit, for example, is estimated to be costing individual fishermen and women between €5,000 and €20,000 in lost income because of a quota system that operates - they say - against the interests of the Irish fishing industry.

As well as higher quotas, they also want their traditional rights to fish at Rockall restored, and an end to the latest requirement that their fish be weighed on arrival in a port.

They say not enough is being done by the government to stick up for them in Europe and they are warning the future of a €1 billion-a-year industry that employs 16,000 people is now in doubt as a result.

They have warned that if the government doesn’t act soon, they will take more direct action.

Some fishermen have suggested this could include a blockade of ports around the country.

Joining the flotilla will be fishermen and women from every coastal county in Ireland.

On Saturday, after his meeting in Castletownbere with representatives of the industry,  Mr Martin told the Irish Examiner he would try to get fishermen and women a better deal in Europe.

And he promised he would “do right by the Irish fishing industry” and get Europe to let the Irish catch more of their own fish.

If he fails to do this, the industry faces even more of a crisis than it is dealing with at the moment.

Indeed, such are the problems fishers face that an interim government report has concluded so far that Ireland’s fishing fleet is likely to be slashed.

The cuts will, the government hopes, ensure those left in the industry can survive on a “sustainable” footing due to the devastating impact of Brexit.

While measures being discussed include a temporary voluntary cessation scheme for fishers, other measures include cutting the number of vessels in the fleet altogether.

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