Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Fishing Industry: Discussion

Mr. Patrick Murphy:

I thank Deputy Ring and Senator O’Donovan for their comments, which are welcome. It is greatly received that they understand what is here. To try to be helpful, I will explain our viewpoint and I hope my colleagues would agree with me on this. Brexit was an extraordinary event. Nobody believed that it was going to happen. Even when it did happen, people believed that there was going to be another referendum and that they would overturn it. The rule book, as far as we saw it, had to be redesigned. The previous rules that had been set out for a decommissioning scheme were set up for a completely different purpose. It is no longer relevant to us. That is what need to bring to our Minister.

To assure the committee, we raised this with the EU Commissioner when he visited Killybegs. He agreed with us. He said that the Brexit adjustment reserve, BAR, funding was there to be flexible. Therefore, as my colleague, Mr. Ward, pointed out, we felt that we were getting miscommunication and confusing messages whereby on the one hand, we were told that this is the way that it has to be written. We kept pointing out that Brexit is an extraordinary event. It is accepted that it is an extraordinary event. It is accepted that we suffered the greatest burden. Surely, on the basis of that, even if we do all totally and utterly hate the idea of decommissioning, we are not going to envisage even more pain for these families. They might have entered the industry, as I said, in the last number of years, paying €15,000 per gross tonnage. There is going to be a shortfall there. I know that my colleagues are saying that the ones that want to go out might have their boats bought and paid for. They just want to leave the industry. They are just distraught by it. We understand the complications of that. We have to take cognisance of the way the scheme and the terms and conditions - which we disagreed with - are set out. They are not appropriate. They do not address the issue or the crisis that we are in at the moment. There is not enough money there. It is not high enough. We are not asking for people to make millionaires out of themselves. We just want their debts covered and for them to leave with some dignity. I point out to the committee that a fisherman came up the stairs to my office. He had been in the job for 30 years. His father had been a fisherman for 50 years. They told me that if they left the industry, and if they had €70,000 each leaving the industry after that amount of time, they would be happy. This is the stark reality that we are at. They will not get that. They will be in debt with the figures that are presented to them. Even if this happens to only one fisherman, it is a wrong.

We have to tell our Minister that this is an extraordinary event. Europe agrees with us. The Commissioner agrees with us. We need to rewrite the rule book. We saw during our time in the task force that the French got much further leeway in their actions under the Brexit adjustment reserve than we were told we were allowed. This is a reality. For us, it is a necessary evil, as Mr. Ward pointed out. Please do not make it worse for our people who have given their lives to this industry. At the end of it, they are disillusioned. Then they will get a second kicking, but not from Europe. If Ireland does this, it will be us doing it to our own people. We have to make sure that they are properly compensated for the lives that they have given to this industry. I thank the Chair and Deputy Ring.