Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Promoting Sustainable Rural Coastal and Island Communities: Discussion
I welcome Mr. Jerry Early, Mr. James O'Toole, Mr. Enda Conneely and Mr. John Walsh from the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation. I thank them for coming before the committee today to brief it on the progress being made on the recommendations in the report of the Oireachtas Joint Sub-Committee on Fisheries on promoting sustainable rural coastal and island communities.
By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
Questions are being put to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the Dáil. We delayed the meeting for half an hour to facilitate Priority Questions and we anticipate that Deputies Éamon Ó Cuív and Martin Ferris will be along as soon as they can.
I believe they have been circulated with the briefing document. That is the reason they are not here at the moment, but it is hoped they will be here as quickly as possible.
Mr. Jerry Early:
My name is Jerry Early and this is my fourth time appearing before the committee. We are on first name terms at this stage. On the three previous occasions, I was representing the Donegal island fisherman. At our last meeting on the advice of the Joint Sub-Committee on Fisheries, which is recommendation 20 of the report, we were advised to organise and set up an all-islands body, which I am glad to say we have done. I am chair and spokesperson of this group called the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation, IIMRO. I am joined by Mr. John Walsh, from Bere Island, County Cork; Mr. Enda Conneely, from Inis Oírr, County Galway; and Mr. James O'Toole, from Clare Island, County Mayo. Unfortunately Mr. John O'Brien was left on the island and he could not get off it this morning. That is the beauty of island life, I suppose.
This group has done much work setting up a committee and we are in constant contact on matters pertaining to fisheries and the marine on our islands. We refer to the report of Joint Sub-Committee on Fisheries, which was launched on Inis Oírr in January 2014. We welcomed many of the report's recommendations, but now we feel these recommendations must be implemented. IIMRO has prioritised four of these recommendations to be implemented initially.
For example, recommendation No. 10 refers to the feasibility of the issuance of a heritage licence to island communities. This recommendation is of great importance and we feel that it needs to be acted on immediately.
IIMRO proposed to co-ordinate with existing groups such as the interdepartmental marine co-ordination group, MCG. While that may not be possible, it could be some other group. That group is chaired by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and it meets monthly. We propose we should have input into the MCG as part of a working group that deals with the report's recommendations. We welcome the newly formed fisheries forum the Minister has set up to deal with the inshore fisheries. I am part of that nationally and regionally. However, this group's terms of reference do not address the full concerns of islanders and island life.
I will elaborate on recommendation No. 10 after I give my colleagues a chance to introduce themselves.
Much voluntary time and effort has gone into setting up this group and we feel that we have held up our end of the bargain. We now feel that this committee has a responsibility to implement the recommendations, as it promised to do in January 2014. We were assured this report would not gather dust, and it is to be hoped that with the help of members of the committee, this will not be the case.
The revised Common Fisheries Policy Basic Regulations 2014 state:
Member States should endeavour to give preferential access for small scale, artisanal or coastal fishermen.
Small offshore islands which are dependent on fishing should, where appropriate, be especially recognised and supported in order to enable them to survive and prosper in the future.
This was a huge recognition, but we need help from the Government and from this committee to get the benefits down to an island level. IIMRO is totally committed to working with the State to make this possible, but we need resources, guidance and help to move things forward.
Once again, I thank members of the committee for their time and I hope that after this meeting we will finally have a roadmap to sustainable island communities which we can all feed into and be a part of.
Mr. Enda Conneely:
My name is Enda Conneely from Inis Oírr on the Aran Islands. I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for listening to us today. We appreciate that members of the joint sub-committee came out to the island to launch the report. We were impressed that they made that journey in the middle of winter.
It more or less encouraged us to come together as a group representing all of the islands with a view to engaging with the committee and whomever else needs to be engaged with to help bring forward the recommendations. As island communities, we believe it is very important that we do everything we can to keep our communities active, particularly in the area of fisheries and the various other sectors mentioned earlier. We are here to help. Rather than make submissions or give advice, we would welcome as much engagement as possible on how we can bring forward the recommendations.
By way of background, the committee has already completed a number of reports during its term and felt that rather than undertaking additional reports, it should revisit previous reports to see what progress had been made in relation to the implementation of the recommendations therein. The report before us is the first chosen in that regard. Our aim is to see if we can assist in its implementation. The committee does not have the power to implement recommendations but it can push for them to be implemented. It was felt that further engagement with the representatives here today and others would be of use to us at this time. We are also trying to organise a meeting with the new Commissioner. Much of what has been proposed forms part of what was proposed by the former Commissioner under the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP. Many of the recommendations put forward are also similar to those proposed previously by the committee. What we are trying to achieve, collectively, is a reflection of this in departmental policy.
If this committee could implement the report, we would be flying. Unfortunately, we have to rely on the Government to take on board the recommendations and implement them.
On the proposals around heritage licences, I agree that these should be progressed. One of the responses from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was that the national inshore fishermen's forum was the appropriate vehicle through which to move forward the recommendations in the report. I understand it has met a couple of times thus far. Perhaps the delegates' would outline their thoughts on the forum and whether they see it as a vehicle for moving forward some of the recommendations.
The committee also received responses from various other Departments in relation to the recommendations that applied to them. The committee secretariat might undertake to forward those responses to the delegates for their information. I am sure the response which would be of interest to the Donegal islands in particular is the one from the Inland Fisheries Ireland in relation to salmon licences, which proposal is based on the scientific recommendations that we hear all of the time in relation to salmon. As such, there was little progress to be made in that area in terms of the committee's recommendations.
I would welcome the delegates' views on the potential of the national inshore fishermen's forum to progress the recommendations and so on. They might also expand on whether they have any engagement with the fisheries local action groups, FLAGs, in their areas and what opportunities, if any, there are in that regard.
Cuirim fáilte roimh na finnéithe freisin. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeadh siad ag teacht inár láthair agus go mbeadh deis cur agus cúiteamh faoin tuairisc seo.
I welcome the delegates back to the committee. I am not a full member of this committee. However, I think it is important that we keep on top of this issue. I share the delegates' disappointment that despite more than a year having passed since the publication of the report, little has been done on it. It is a very good report and its recommendations are very practical. I agree that it is disappointing that there has not been more action on the recommendations.
From the committee's point of view, it is important that I ask whether any of the recommendations have been implemented. A heritage licence is one recommendation, but which of the other recommendations should be prioritised? We should have departmental officials attend and put them to the pin of their collar to determine why this is not happening or what progress has been made. Perhaps there has been some, but we should find out what it is in order that we can relay it to the witnesses.
On a recent delegation to Brussels, we raised with Commission officials the issue of the heritage licence. They told us that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF, seemed like it would be a useful mechanism for implementing the likes of a heritage licence. We referenced the report in detail, a copy of which the officials had seen, and asked whether any of its recommendations could not be implemented in Ireland. They saw no major issue with any of them. In terms of the funding mechanisms for a number of the recommendations, however, they stated that they would have to examine EMFF proposals before allowing applications for funding further down the line. A hearing with the Department on the EMFF guidelines might be useful. I understand that it is drafting them currently by using Brussels' guidelines and putting an Irish slant on them. They will outline what schemes will be available under the EMFF. Which recommendation would the witnesses prioritise for funding through the EMFF or other mechanisms?
An issue pertinent to the islands has arisen since the report was conducted, namely, the Leader funding of Comhar na nOileán. Another source of funding of which islanders are able to avail, it is hanging in the balance and no one is clear how matters stand. What are the implications for the fisheries industry and people living on the islands? Perhaps we should address the matter and add further recommendations relating to it.
A number of people have raised issues about fish farming and aquaculture. The Minister has stated that, since entering office, he has issued no aquaculture licences. Do the witnesses have comments to make on any proposal affecting the islands that may have been made in this regard?
I thank the witnesses for their presentations. It is good to have them here. I must admit that I know little about fishing, but I am prepared to learn. I come from County Leitrim, which has a short coastline of only 2 km. There is not much fishing. Normally, the first salmon of the year is caught in the Drowes but, as far as I know, people are still waiting. I saw gentlemen fishing at the Drowes yesterday. Previously, the committee discussed the problem of salmon not coming from Donegal.
Two or two and a half years ago, I met a gentleman in Galway who had a problem. He had a processing factory and felt that it was difficult for smaller fishermen to operate because large boats were coming in and taking away much of the mackerel and herring from his area. However, some of the Minister's work has helped him. Since I met him, he has gone back into business and employs approximately ten people.
In terms of the issues raised by the witnesses, I will work with my colleagues to ensure that whatever can be done will be done. It is important that we sustain coastal fishermen.
Does anyone else wish to contribute? I am mindful that other members have yet to arrive, but do the witnesses have a response to the questions? It has been recommended that, under the Common Agricultural Policy, access and priority should be given to smaller communities. This important recommendation has come after the report was finalised.
In a way, there has been a meeting of minds and we should try to act on this. What we have put down is a wish list. However, when it is recommended in a Common Fisheries Policy, it is more than that. Whether through the forums around the country or through a directive from the Department, we need to get that sort of action plan into the mind set of those forums so that it can become a reality on the ground. Mr. Early referenced recommendation No. 10. Recommendations Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14 are very relevant to the island communities in particular. Recommendation No. 15, on extending the 12 mile limit, may be something we should examine further, but that will take a lot of effort. The other recommendations are tailored to island and coastal communities and traditional inshore fishing. We must try to get a formula to develop an implementation group. A lot of work went into this report from our end. From a job satisfaction point of view, we do not want it to end up on a shelf. We want to see some action. This is why the delegates are here today, as an initial point of engagement.
We would be glad to hear the delegates' views on the questions asked.
Mr. John Walsh:
I will introduce myself to the committee. My name is John Walsh and I am from Bere Island. I am the chairman of Comhar na nOileán. This is my second time attending before the committee. On the last occasion when we were invited to make a submission on behalf of the islands, we used research on the fishing industry which had been carried out by Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, the islands' representative group. It hired a man called Nick Pfeiffer, who is an expert in the area, to carry out research on the fishing industry. He interviewed all the fishermen across the islands. We presented his report to the committee and much of the report found its way into the committee's report, which was great, and we appreciated it.
The recommendation we got from the committee on that previous occasion was for the islands to get together because we were too dispersed. We went away and did that. We are back here today to tell the committee that we have pulled ourselves together. We got fishermen from Cork, Galway, Mayo and Donegal together. We had two or three meetings in Galway. We held a conference there with experts from different places to speak to the fishermen. We are now asking the committee where we should go now. We need its assistance. The Chairman spoke about an implementation group. We would be looking for this as well. This could be a working group which we could part of and through which we could work with other people. We consider a partnership approach is needed. We are not going to do it on our own; the committee will not do it on its own. If we work together, we will achieve something.
The islands are under pressure population-wise. The national inshore fisheries forum is only being bedded in at the moment. We are in more of a hurry than that. We need to work with it, but we need an independent islands group because the islands are different. From my experience of work with islands, whether fishing, tourism or farming, it always needs something a bit different. The recommendation from the Common Fisheries Policy shows that Europe sees this now as well. If we all work together, we can definitely achieve something.
Mr. Early referred to the recommendations, and especially No. 10 on heritage licensing. I spoke to many fishermen in west Cork over the past few days. They see boats coming in with 400 or 500 pots and they have just their punts and 50 or 60 pots. They always managed to make a living, but the islands life was always based on seasonality where the people did a bit of farming, a bit of fishing and a bit of tourism. This kept the islands going. The main industries of fishing and farming are going. The population is being eroded as well. It is vital, therefore, that we get all the parts to start working together again to ensure the sustainability of the islands. I am also a member of the fisheries local area development scheme, FLAG. To my mind, there are definitely opportunities in this for the islands. However, more than funding is required. It needs partnership working. If we get a group together in a room and we all have the common approach that we need to do something and work together, everything else will fall into place.
When the report was prepared by the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas, CEDRA, we did not have any say in the recommendations. The then Minister, Phil Hogan, commissioned the report and Pat Spillane chaired the commission. As part of the implementation process of the commission's report, there may be an opportunity to tie it in with coastal and island communities in particular. It is about all things to do with rural development, and I assume it covers all classes, including the islands. Certainly, it does not exclude them.
Mr. John Walsh:
I will set out the position on the Leader programme at the moment. Before the new round of the Leader programme started, the islands ran their own programmes. These were made up of three rounds. The islands were always classed as a distinct region. Comhar na nOileán and Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann were always asked to make a submission for the islands. However, because of the new policy on local government, this time the islands have been split into the four county regions.
There are 28 regions in the country, but we are pushing to get a 29th region made up of the islands. The idea is that they would form a separate region. Given the way it works at the moment, we will express an interest in the next round of the Leader programme. Previously, we would have based a submission on one budget for the four areas, whereas now we will have to express an interest in west Cork, Galway, Mayo and Donegal. This weakens the position of Comhar na nOileán. It is still hanging in the balance and is in no way secure.
I am unsure whether this is something we should consider supporting, because there is a unique scenario on the islands. I know from talking to islanders in the Galway area that there was no logic to changing the system as it was. It may be helpful, if the committee was of a mind, to write to the Minister and ask him to consider examining the situation from an island perspective.
One of the recommendations called for the formation of a collective island representative organisation, and this has been done. It would seem to fly in the face of that to split them up again. The committee could easily draft something, and it would back up a recommendation we made for a cohesive approach to the island communities. There is no problem with writing to the Minister.
The island organisation is not the only group for which this is relevant. I know the Irish Traveller Movement and others made a similar submission under the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP. The movement sought to represent the community collectively, although not for the entire country. Anyway, the Government encouraged the establishment of that group some years ago. The same principle applies here.
Perhaps the committee should put its thinking cap on again to try to come up with a formula for an implementation group or make a recommendation to the Minister to get one under way. Any group should include a representative of the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Ann Phelan, since she is the person in charge of the implementation of the CEDRA recommendations. Is there anything else?
When we were drafting the report, the South-West Fisheries Local Action Group, FLAG, was only getting up and running, and we had no input into that body. I was interested in what Mr. Walsh said in respect of the potential of FLAG to get partnership working and up and running and so on. How is the group developing? Is there much focus on the islands? How is that work progressing at the moment?
Mr. Jerry Early:
I am a representative as well. We need to be careful that there is no crossover. FLAG is more community-based as opposed to fisheries-based. We welcome FLAG as a great initiative. Again, it is more a question of funding for community projects rather than dealing with specific aspects of the implementation of the report.
It runs parallel to it, but there is no crossover.
Mr. Jerry Early:
I am a member of the north Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum, RIFF. The north FLAG and north RIFF run concurrently and there are many crossovers. In my experience, the RIFF and the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, NIFF, are up and running. I compliment the Minister, Deputy Coveney. He probably took that from the recommendations. As a representative of the county at national level, I have to represent the county. I have great difficulty getting my points across. The difficulties on an island are very difficult to those on the mainland. I cannot wear the hat I really want to wear, but I still have to represent the county to the best of my capabilities in terms of what is right for the county.
It does not go far enough in terms of the islands getting recognition. The report was born of lobbying which was initially done by the Donegal islands committee of which I was a part. Deputy Pringle helped us in the initial stages. We feel we have set the template and written the bible, but now we are the horses at the back of the queue. We have to be very careful that we do not get bogged down with the recommendations and what we want. Everybody wants something.
I would be happy if we left today, as the Chairman said, with a plan for the future as to how we can prioritise the recommendations and focus on the CFP declaration and the amendment to it to the effect that offshore islands have to be specially recognised. We have held up our end of the bargain. At a previous committee meeting we were asked to go away and organise ourselves. After a lot of hard work - which was done on a voluntary basis, as nobody was paid - that is what we did. We are now back to move things on another step.
Mr. Enda Conneely:
I would like to address a few of the issues raised by Deputy Pringle and Senators Ó Clochartaigh and Comiskey. From our perspective, the NIFF is not specialised enough to deal with the issues specific to islands. We need a specialist approach.
The FLAG situation involves regional areas and communities. It is only funded at the present time to deal with small-scale issues. That brings us back to the islands and scale. Deputy Ó Clochartaigh mentioned the current issues peculiar to aquaculture. The agencies are using EU funding which we think should be directed towards coastal communities. The funding seems to be going to large multinational entities rather than areas of future potential. It seems to be focused on one particular form of aquaculture which we would consider to be nearing the end of its current life span.
We must be very careful about how EU funding is targeted and spent. We need to have an aquaculture industry that is of a scale suitable to islands but which also encompasses different species. We should be looking to lead the new wave that is coming in this area rather than what is happening at the moment, namely, that funding is being targeted in one particular direction.
In regard to the Common Fisheries Policy, there is a European-wide issue because islands are recognised as special cases. We have a scale issue in that we are quite small. We have been there for generations and have operated with the resources we had. There is a danger at the moment in that we need to focus in some way on retaining the ownership of, for instance, seaweed rights that we have traditionally had on the islands. Even a pilot scheme in this regard would be useful to see how we might deal with these types of issue as islands. If we had, say, a zone of control or some other mechanism that would allow us to have input into what actually happens, that would be helpful. It would not necessarily be up to the 12-mile limit, because that is a longer-term issue, but some immediate measure that would allow us to have some local management and access to earmarked resources for the islands would be a start.
Reference was made to the first salmon of the year. There are rivers in Ireland with very low salmon stocks. One option would be to look at the Alaskan model which involves restocking and a form of ranching. It is something that has not been analysed too carefully, as far as I can see, but it is an idea we could explore, especially for the Donegal islands.
Returning to the question of scale, we see in other European countries that boats can come into a small port and people can buy the fish directly off it. That is established practice all over Europe. If one goes anywhere in Italy, France or Spain, for instance, it is possible to buy top-quality fish in a local area. We are constrained by seasons and by size in that we have only a small inshore fleet, but there is scope there and it would tie in nicely with the Wild Atlantic Way initiative. The inhabited islands should be included in that initiative.
Although it does not relate directly to fishing, I note the additional measures under Pillar 2 of the rural development plan whereby islands have been given enhanced payments, which is helpful to the farming sector.
The point Mr. Conneely made about the Wild Atlantic Way is very important. I came across a case recently involving a shellfish producer who has been selling at a stall on the side of the road at a scenic location in Connemara for several years. Now that this location has been officially designated, however, he has been moved on by the local authority engineer for some strange reason. We are looking into that.
The recommendations set out in the report pertain to a number of Departments but most of them are fisheries issues.
However, recommendation No. 18 relates to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, recommendation No. 22 relates to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and recommendation No. 23 relates to the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for CEDRA. I am not stating that the relevant Ministers, Ministers of State or officials should be invited to come before us but perhaps we could write to them to seek a response.
We received a response from the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, when we made inquiries with him. We also received a reply from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when we sought information from it. We can certainly circulate details of the replies we received at that time.
I welcome Deputy Ferris. I must inform him that we could not delay the meeting until 3 p.m. because we are obliged to vacate the room at 4.15 p.m. at the latest. We were afraid to delay the commencement beyond 2.30 p.m. I did not realise the Deputy was going to be detained for so long in the House. Our guests made their presentations earlier and what we are trying to do now is to get some sort of implementation effort under way in respect of our recommendations. One of the reasons our guests were invited to appear was to see if we could figure out a way to proceed. Perhaps what needs to happen is that a small group of members of the committee should try to engage with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Minister of State with responsibility for rural affairs and individuals such as our guests in order to establish which recommendations should be targeted. The inland fisheries forum was set up on the basis of one of our recommendations. The Minister has indicated that he has already dealt with some of our other recommendations directly but others take time. We would like to think we had an influence on the establishment of the national maritime forum but that was probably going to happen in any event. The forum holds an annual conference in May or June which, from now on, will be hosted at different locations throughout the country. The forum's conference was held in Dublin Castle last year because that venue was available but it will be moving to the more regional bases from this year onward.
I apologise that I was not present earlier but I was obliged to be in the Dáil for Priority Questions. The recommendations cannot be left on the shelf and we must ensure that they are debated. Hopefully, they will be accepted by the Government. On the question of the forum that might be used in that regard, I would hope that we might have a debate in the House. That would give all Deputies, but particularly those who represent rural constituencies, the opportunity to contribute. If we could initiate proceedings in this regard as soon as possible, it would be a start.
That might be a good starting point. The House sits on every second Friday and there is an opportunity for each committee to list a topic for debate. The topic discussed is chosen by means of a lottery. We have listed the report to be taken for debate. Perhaps the members of the committee could co-ordinate on a cross-party basis in order to ensure that a debate on this matter takes place in the House, thereby giving us the opportunity to suggest how the recommendations might be implemented. Establishing a forum to move matters on is the key to what we are trying to achieve. It sounds somewhat wishy-washy but we are obliged to start with some sort of a vehicle in order to actually move forward and proceed to work on the list of recommendations. Everybody present is keen to make that happen.
In the context of the funding available through the multi-annual funding framework, MFF, perhaps we could invite the relevant officials to come before us in order to tease out what we might do for island communities, in particular, in the context of the benefits which could be derived from the adoption of certain aspects of this report.
If they come before us, we should ask what they plan to do on foot of the recommendation relating to the Common Fisheries Policy to the effect that priority access should be given. We will seek to invite the relevant departmental officials - including those with expertise in the area of rural affairs - to come before us.
There is a kind of dovetailing here that needs to happen. Did Mr. O'Toole indicate he wishes to add a comment?
Mr. James O'Toole:
I am here to represent the islands off Mayo. I am from Clare Island which has a population of 160. It is a very young population. Last year, 19 children were in the national school, 17 went to secondary school and ten went to third level education. We are sitting on a natural resource, which is fishing. It is the only natural resource we have and we are gaining nothing from it. This is why I am here to represent islands, to see what can be done. That population does not want to emigrate, although most of them will have to emigrate. There is a population that wants to stay, not like us. In my day, we could not leave the slavery fast enough but things have changed. The younger population does not want to move and there is a natural resource that can be tapped into without going into anything else. This is where our emphasis as islanders lies, that this natural resource is made amenable to us.
Mr. Jerry Early:
I welcome the Chairman's comments on the vehicle because, as it stands, the vehicle has come to a standstill, for want of a better word. We were here in May last year and, with the exception of the national forum that was set up, that still does not address the problems on the islands. It is imperative that the vehicle gets moving, whatever way it moves. Deputy Ferris suggested one way but, unfortunately, this is a cross-departmental issue and there are many committees involved in it. The longer we delay this, the greater the frustration. We have surmounted every roadblock, as we are talking about a vehicle, that has been set in our way. We have held up our end of the bargain. At this point, we have to be guided down a fair and equal road where we can all work together and not get confused with the national forum, which does not go far enough to appease concerns and to keep island life as we know it. I welcome that as the roadmap we have to take and hopefully-----
Much of what we were trying to do covers rural, coastal and island communities. The package of recommendations, in the preparation of which we were involved, covers all of that area. That is why I referenced the farming aspect, and the tourism aspect is important as well. Taking Deputy Ferris's point, once we get the chance to have the Bill debated in the House and get an official response, we need to organise that we will get out of that the bones of the vehicle we are trying to-----
Not necessarily. It is a report with recommendations. The committee members get an opportunity to present their report with a list of recommendations and get feedback from the relevant Minister or Ministers. The idea would be that we would concentrate on an outcome, namely, to get agreement to set up an implementation body or whatever with the involvement of two or three members from this committee, people from the representative organisations in respect of the area the report references, and officials from a number of Departments to go through the report recommendations to see what can and cannot be implemented while being mindful of the policy within the Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, which is very important because it gives an imprimatur to everybody to act upon it
That will be vitally important in terms of giving us some weight behind what we are trying to do.
We will discuss this in more detail as a committee. I am conscious that we are in public session, and I am not trying to turn this into a chit-chat, but it is important that we got the feedback from the witnesses. It was to make these reports, and the recommendations contained in each of them, relevant, to get people focused on them and see what we can do to implement them.
Perhaps we could have up-to-date responses on some of the different points and it might possible to put a type of matrix together indicating the responses to the different points, so that we would be aware of whether the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said yes or no and so on.
What we can do is forward to Mr. Early the responses we got from the different Departments at the time we circulated it to them. Also, while the witnesses are identifying the priorities, it might be worthwhile if we could establish what could happen in the short, medium and long term as well.
I think we can conclude the meeting. Deputy Ó Cuív must have got delayed somewhere. The Dáil has been on Leaders' Questions since 3.15 p.m.
I am sure he is. I thank the witnesses for coming before the committee. Having visited Inis Oírr, I know they have taken a very long trip and they are dependent on many elements to get on and off that island. We nearly did not get back, although we would not have cried too much if that had happened. I thank the representatives from the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation, IIMRO, for giving of their time to make their presentation.