Thursday, 14 March 2019
Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
The Minister is aware that on a cross-party basis in this House, we have agreed on a compromise that we will only take Committee Stage today. We are telling the Minister and his officials that, before he comes back here on Report Stage, he needs to demonstrate that he has engaged in meaningful consultation with the representatives of fishermen across the coast. I suggest he meets the groups which made presentations to the Oireachtas committee. The Minister and his officials have access to the transcripts of their presentations to the committee because they are on the database system here in the Houses of the Oireachtas and I am sure the Minister's officials will have them in their possession. The Minister was fully aware of the concerns of those groups two years ago but unfortunately he has not engaged in any dialogue with them on this legislation in that time. He has not attempted to address their concerns. A round-table discussion with such representative organisations is vital. The Minister should provide to all of us the legal advice he received from the Attorney General that led him to present this legislation as it is today. It is critical that we have access to that legal advice in order that we can properly scrutinise it.
The Minister also needs to demonstrate that this legislation is only for fishing vessels. All sides of this House support what voisinagewas many years ago. We support the principle of Irish fishermen across the island of Ireland being able to access Irish fishing waters but it has to be on a level playing pitch. There has to be a clear legislative footing in both jurisdictions that permits Irish fishermen to fish in Irish waters in vessels and trawlers of a certain size. We need our fisheries managed in a responsible way.
I am sad to say this, but the Minister's departmental officials and his predecessors allowed our mussel fishery to be destroyed. They allowed a natural resource of the Irish people to be destroyed. That led to the Supreme Court decision and those Irish fishermen were forced to go the whole way to the Supreme Court and potentially to impoverish themselves to defend our natural resources against officials working in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, who should have been defending our natural resources and our people's constitutional rights. Instead these fishermen had to take the case to defend our natural Irish resources.
It is absolutely critical that, when the Minister finally gets this legislation passed through these Houses, our natural resources are protected-----