Thursday, 28 March 2019
Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 [Seanad]: Committee and Remaining Stages
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 3, line 17, after “may” to insert “not”.
The Minister spoke about my namesake from west Cork and stated that he would turn in his grave because I have been shutting doors. I ask the Minister not to insult the name of General Michael Collins in this Dáil. The Minister shut the door for two years when he was asleep at the wheel in respect of this Bill. The Minister had the door shut solid on this and there was no chance of discussion for me or any of my colleagues on this issue. Do not go there. It was the Minister who shut the doors, not me.
I am trying to protect Irish fishermen and their rights. Maybe I am wrong in some of the issues which are concerning me but we need more time to discuss the issue and that is what I have pleading for all along. A proper discussion is the least that should happen. This Bill should be allowed to go through pre-legislative scrutiny where the real facts as to where we are going could be found out.
When he was asked about legalities on the Northern Irish side in the Seanad, the Minister stated that the Minister of State at the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Robert Goodwill, MP, stated that he is confident that the legal side in the UK is okay. Confidence is not legally binding to the best of my knowledge. Mr. Goodwill surely has the resources to give the Minister a clear answer as to whether the situation is 100% legally binding or not. The Minister is ramming this Bill through on the basis of Mr. Goodwill saying he is confident. Having watched politics in England over the past two years, I have very little confidence in what is going on there. The Minister seems to have more confidence than I have. I ask the Minister to sideline this Bill at least until the Brexit negotiations are over. That is the most important thing because we do not know what rights we will have.
The Minister also mentioned Mr. Michael Gove in the Seanad. In 2017, Mr. Gove brought forward a Bill in the UK that he said created powers to build a sustainable and profitable UK fishing industry with new protections for precious marine environment. A press release at the time stated that, "For the first time since 1973, the Fisheries Bill will enable the UK to control who may fish in our waters and on what terms." I find it very clear where the UK is going although the Minister does not. Mr. Gove stated, in 2017, that, for the first time in 50 years and due to Brexit, the UK could control its own waters. At the time, the Minister described that statement on behalf of the UK Government as unwelcome and unhelpful.
Today, however, the Minister has informed me that I am on the wrong side of the debate. I ask him to allow the Bill to undergo pre-legislative scrutiny and that we be given the time needed to discuss it properly. The Bill was sitting in his Department for two years but we have only had it for a couple of weeks.
I find it astonishing that Members have stated that the Seanad delayed the Bill - I cannot argue with them on that score - and that Senators asked the Minister to meet fishing groups before they made a decision. He met groups in west Cork. It is always important to acknowledge any Minister who meets any groups. The fishing groups in question greatly appreciated meeting him. I have heard, however, that other groups did not have the opportunity to meet him. The meeting with the Minister was held last Thursday but I received notice of it only this morning, despite the debate on the issue being scheduled to take place in the House today. The Minister must have pre-empted the debate, therefore, or else it must have been decided, behind the scenes and without our knowledge, that there would be an agreement today. The Bill would not have made it through the Seanad if the fishing groups did not agree and it could not have come here for debate, yet here we are discussing it. I stand over my concerns and the amendment.