Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Sea-Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021: Second Stage
I want to put on the record of the House my commendation to Deputy Mac Lochlainn on the work he has done in this area. I am the Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture, food and the marine but we recognised early on that the challenges facing our fishing and coastal communities were so great that we needed to have a dedicated person of ability to address and deal with these issues specifically. One of the difficulties the Government faces is the fact that it has not done the same. It has been quite a number of years since we have had a senior Minister with responsibility for the marine and for many years following that there was a junior Minister with specific responsibility for the marine. We do not have that now and that is reflected in the free rein that a small number of officials have in respect of issues pertaining to the marine. It is also reflected in the fact that a statutory instrument that was, uniquely in the history of this State, rejected by this House was brought back verbatim by the exact same party that proposed the annulment in the first place. Now, despite the united voices of every single fishing organisation in this State, the Government is proceeding with legislation that does not make one bit of sense. That has already been outlined but it is important that we restate it.
This legislation allows penalty points to be applied to masters of fishing vessels based on the legal threshold of the balance of probabilities. It is actually worse than the scenario outlined by Deputy Mac Lochlainn because it is not simply like somebody being caught speeding. It is more like somebody being issued with a speeding ticket because a garda believed they were speeding. That is the principle that now applies to our fishermen. Then the points remain on a licence even when the accused has successfully appealed the decision in the court. There is no other set of workers, sector, industry or group of individuals that is treated in this manner. I commend Deputy Mac Lochlainn and I endorse his proposition that Sinn Féin will fight this legislation every step of the way because this is bad legislation and is indicative of how our fishing communities have been treated in this State for too long.