Thursday, 14 March 2019
Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
It is important to note that the Supreme Court judgment which upheld the finding of the High Court did not say that voisinagearrangements are not valid but only that we do not have sufficient provision in domestic law to support the arrangements whereby Northern Ireland fishermen can come into the six-mile zone. The Supreme Court did note, however, that the arrangements were "a sensible recognition at official level of practice and tradition" whereby fishing boats have traditionally fished neighbouring waters.
Senator Nash is right. Our primary responsibility is always to the citizens of our own country. We do not want to be insular on any issue however. The Minister has to see the bigger picture. We try, in all things, to operate in harmony with Northern Ireland where possible. Now more than ever, in light of all of the concerns in respect of the fallout from Brexit, we have to be the bigger person and draw circles of inclusiveness. That notwithstanding, there are concerns with regard to the regulation of fishing boats other than Irish and Northern Irish fishing boats. I believe the Minister has listened to these. He has recognised the principle that everybody should be subject to the same law. There should be equality of treatment as regards fishermen North and South. In pursuing this principle, issues of sustainability which are not dealt with directly in the legislation can also be broached. At the end of the day, it is about having sustainable fisheries and about our fisheries not being abused.
I welcome the fact that there will be further engagement with the fishermen in the Republic who have concerns about this legislation to see what further can be done to assuage those concerns and to have fulsome debate about the issues and the bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve today.