Thursday, 3 June 2021
Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2021 [Seanad]: Second Stage
Johnny Mythen (Wexford, Sinn Fein)
Like other Deputies, I have reservations about what underscores this Bill and the bestowing upon the Minister of potentially sweeping powers by means of a simple statutory instrument. It is impossible to support the Bill without substantial amendment, which we in Sinn Féin intend to do. We believe that the Bill's fast-tracking without proper due diligence is not good governance, given that the Bill will have major economic and social implications for our country and, importantly, future generations for years to come.
Perhaps the Minister of State will respond to my first question. Were this legislation to pass, would it be possible for a Minister to create maritime areas that would include tax incentives and free economic zones controlled entirely or partly by other jurisdictions? How much of this would be done through a mere statutory instrument and without full Oireachtas scrutiny?
So far, there have been limited consultations on the Bill with fishers, the tourism industry and coastal communities. Fishers in my area of Wexford are already facing the fallout of Brexit and the recent slashing of quotas. They feel abandoned by Government policies that directly put their industry under economic threat. We can add the small charter boat industry to that. To think that the livelihoods of those involved could depend on the stroke of a Minister's pen is unbelievable. They should also be consulted when legislation like this is being proposed by the Government. Let us consider the example of wind farms. We know how urgent it is that we move to renewable energy. Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone is on board with the prime principle of a fair and just transition. I am concerned about the management and impact of this essential infrastructure on small businesses and nearby communities that make their living from our waters and seas.
It is not just the wind farms themselves but the safety zones imposed around them, which can add extra nautical miles and disrupt common regular routes of smaller boats. People must be consulted but if the fast-tracking of this Bill is anything to go by, they will not be. That causes mistrust in the system and erodes the Government's duty to protect people as we change over to greener energy.
I will raise the issue of fishing rights, energy and mineral rights surrounding Rockall. I ask the Minister of State why he has not made any specific representations on behalf of the Irish people regarding Rockall, yet the Scottish Government wishes to undertake discussions with the UK Government on the transfer of fishing rights, oil and gas resources to the Scottish Government. For this Government to abandon the question of the sovereignty of Rockall is incredible, unbelievable and unforgivable.