The Taoiseach has promised to fight for a better deal in Europe for fishermen, saying he is 'not happy' with the share of the burden carried by the Irish fishing industry post-Brexit.
Micheál Martin met representatives of the industry in Castletownbere and Union Hall in West Cork following a warning by the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) that thousands of jobs will be lost unless action is taken by the Government.
The fishing organisation has highlighted how the UK has 75% of fish in their waters while Ireland is reduced to 15% in Irish waters.
It says Brexit is costing individuals in the industry between €5,000 and €20,000 in lost income.
The fishermen say the 'final straw' for the industry was a European Commission ruling that Ireland cannot be trusted to police its fishing quotas under the Common Fisheries Policy.
Mr Martin promised he would “do right by the Irish fishing industry” and vowed to work to convince Europe to let Irish fishermen catch more of their own fish.
Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, who joined Mr Martin for the meeting, said the government “needs to do whatever it takes” to get the fishing industry a better deal.
Fishermen, who last month mounted a flotilla into the Port of Cork to highlight their cause and delivered a letter outlining their concerns to Mr Martin's constituency office, say not enough is being done by the Government to stick up for them in Europe.
They say the future of a €1bn-a-year industry that employs 16,000 people is not only in doubt but is dying.
Even the government has accepted the national fishing fleet is going to have to be slashed in order to make sure there is a sustainable industry for those who remain.
Speaking after the meeting, which ran for nearly two hours, Mr Martin said: “It was very important we had this meeting today.
“We want to make sure that we have a two-way dialogue and that we hear the needs and concerns of the fishing industry.
“We have already signalled to the European Commission that we are not happy with the unfair burden-sharing that occurred as a result of Brexit.”
He said that the whole issue around Ireland’s allocation of quotas, which governs the amount of fish its fleet can catch each month, is a “challenging” one and that he needs to see if he can “redress the balance in the interests of the Irish fishing industry”.
“We want to do right by the Irish fishing community," he said.
Fianna Fáil Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, who arranged Mr Martin’s visit, said: “The big thing is for the Taoiseach to be able to hear first-hand from the sector about the huge challenges the industry is facing, and about the impact of Brexit.
“We need to step up to the mark and take action.
“We have to go back to Europe and fight for and lobby for a fairer share of the European fishing quota.
“If they don't, then the industry is in more trouble.” “We need to do whatever it takes.”
CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation Patrick Murphy, who was there with ISWFPO colleague Damien Turner, said the meeting was “productive”.
“He was scheduled to stay with us for a full hour and gave us an hour and 45 minutes, so that is not a bad thing.
“Did we get every point across that we would have liked to get across? No.
“Did we scratch the surface? Yes.
“Do we think he has a better understanding of the fishing industry? Hopefully.”
He added: “The Taoiseach of our country is the only one to be able to make changes for us.
“We want to be able to catch more fish in our own waters and we need to get a system where our Taoiseach can go out and make those arguments for us in Europe.”