Wednesday, 7 March 2018
Sustainable Seaweed Harvesting: Motion [Private Members]
I commend Deputies Connolly and Pringle on bringing forward this very timely motion, which Sinn Féin will be supporting. We have been aware for some time that this issue was boiling under the surface. What happened with Údarás na Gaeltachta and the sale of Arramara Teoranta gave rise to many questions. A lot of red flags were raised in respect of the sale of this company, which was dealing with this issue, to a multinational corporation. Leaving aside the shadow that hung over the manner in which that sale took place and what went on regarding people who previously worked for the company ending up working for the new company, Arramara Teoranta could have developed this industry to the benefit of the nation and people living in coastal communities.
When we saw that being taken away, red flags were raised. In truth what we are talking about here is the conflict that exists in many places throughout the world between big business and ordinary people trying to survive. That is what this is about; it is down to the basic ideological belief that bigger is best. That is the problem we have with the direction in which this Government is going. In its amendment to the motion, the Government is saying that we need both. However, I fear that the "both" of which the Government speaks is the seaweed on one hand and the companies on the other and the people who are going to get squeezed in the middle are the ordinary citizens who live in our coastal communities. The coastal communities, particularly along the west coast, are in decline and are being ravaged by depopulation. There are huge problems in those communities, not least the lack of income generating possibilities. Seaweed harvesting has the potential to turn those communities around. As others have noted, modern scientific research has shown that there is a great deal of potential in seaweed harvesting along the western seaboard. We need to nourish and develop that potential for the benefit of the people who live in the area, not for multinational corporations. That is the nub of the matter. There is a lot of talk about fair trade in the context of tea, coffee and other products from Third World countries but we need an element of fair trade here in Ireland too and in other developed countries. We need to recognise that we also suffer from the very same problems as Third World countries, with multinational corporations taking advantage where they can, with the complicity of governments that are prepared to work hand in glove with them. We need to ensure that does not happen in this particular situation.
I was also at the protest outside Leinster House earlier today organised by people from Bantry and elsewhere. Some of them are in the Gallery now and they are very welcome. What they were saying was that the people need to be listened to. The Minister of State has said that he is going to speak with them but they have been seeking a meeting with him for quite some time-----