Thursday, 29 April 2021
National Marine Planning Framework: Motion
The Government appears to be pushing this motion through in a rushed matter and is only allocating 45 minutes for debate, five minutes for each group, which is a scandal. I note that no Member from Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael is speaking on this today. They have spent the last six months turning their backs on the larger fishermen; now it is the inshore fishermen they are turning their backs on.
The opening line in the National Marine Planning Framework Baseline Report states:
As an island nation with sovereign rights over one of the largest marine areas in Europe, Ireland’s economy, culture and society is inextricably linked to the sea.
Yet when it comes to debate and teasing these pertinent matters out, the Dáil is not being given sufficient time to do so. The motion received no debate whatsoever when it passed the Seanad last week, yet this is a very significant framework for the future of Ireland's marine environment.
Ireland has a long maritime culture and tradition and Irish people have a strong affinity with the sea. Some 75% of our population live in coastal counties and for as long as people have lived on this island, our seas have held sway over our imagination, sense of adventure and achievements. Our ocean is one of our greatest treasures. It supports a diverse range of economic activities such as seafood, tourism and renewable ocean energy and has abundant potential to open up new applications for health, medicine and technology. Our maritime area is seven times the land mass of Ireland at over 490,000 km² of some of the most productive and diverse resources in the world. When we take our seabed into account, Ireland is one of the largest EU states and our coastline of 750,000 km is longer than that of many European countries.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage has not ended its deliberation on the framework, yet it is being rammed through the Dáil. As I asked the Taoiseach yesterday, what has this Government got against our fishing community? This time it is the inshore fishermen that are being affected. The Taoiseach was the acting Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine last year, a short time ago. He signed a statutory instrument to impose penalty points on our fishermen. While Brexit was happening, the Government was asleep at the wheel and now here we are with 45 minutes to debate this. There is something very fishy happening yet again. What is the rush? Why are we not being given the appropriate time to debate this important framework? This framework comprises a very detailed report of over 200 pages and encompasses human activity on the ocean, renewable energy, fishing ports, hobbies and water sports, shipping, recreation, tourism, wastewater treatment and disposal. We need more than 45 minutes to debate that.