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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Order of Business

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Yesterday, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine joined other European Ministers with responsibility for fisheries in Brussels to determine fishing quotas for the next year. This week the Minister warned that the Council will be one of the most difficult in years. Ireland has a long history of being treated unfairly in this area and these threats are nothing new for fishing communities. The EEC effectively strong-armed us into giving away our rights to fish our own waters when we joined. These negotiations could affect the ability of the Council to agree quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and herring in 2013 and would also affect where Irish fishing vessels can fish next month. If this is not enough, they also face double-digit cuts in many quoted stocks which are vital for the Irish fishing industry. These proposed reductions would amount to a direct income cut for fishermen of €17 million and the full cost when the effect on fish factories and others are factored in is approximately €54 million, with up to 500 full and part-time jobs being put under threat.

Year after year fishermen live in uncertainty as to where their futures lie and they are in a constant battle to make a modest living. The bureaucracy of the fishing industry at EU level is taking its toll not only on fishermen but on fishing communities and the country as a whole. A fundamental change in EU fishing policy is what is essentially required to ensure the sustainability of our communities in the long-term guaranteeing a fair share for Ireland. What will the Government do to support coastal communities which could lose so much of their income? Does the Taoiseach have a contingency plan in place in the event of a breakdown and the loss of so many jobs?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Pringle should bear in mind that Ireland is one of the few countries which has managed to get into a strong position for whatever Minister has attended for a number of years. The reason for the success of Irish Ministers with responsibility for fisheries in recent years at negotiations in Brussels, which take place at the end of every year, is because of the quality of the scientific analysis the Minister brings to the table. The scientific analysis is carried out by the Marine Institute based in Oranmore in Galway. It is a fact that, being armed with exact scientific data, no Minister with responsibility for fisheries from here has come away from Brussels with a bad deal. These negotiations are ongoing and will finish towards this weekend.

Deputy Pringle asked about coastal communities. We must have a debate and an understanding that the level of production and fish required, based on the extraordinary growth in the world's population and therefore the requirement for food across the spectrum, is an issue central to the fishing negotiations. An application lodged for a major fish farm development off the Aran Islands in Deputy Grealish's constituency is being heavily objected to, with another possibly to follow off the west coast. These matters need to be considered rationally. The figure projected for growth in jobs onshore is 500 and this would make an enormous impact to coastal communities. This is an issue that needs to be debated here, by the planning authorities and by those dealing with environmental regulations.

It is clear that in the coming ten to 15 years the level of fish production required will be extraordinary and it will not be got from fishing in the sea because the levels of fish are not there. In this sense what the Minister is doing this week is basing his negotiations on the best scientific data and analysis we have ever had because of the exceptional quality of the data from the Marine Institute. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Coveney, will articulate this very strongly during the negotiations. While we are all concerned about the fishing industry in general there are matters we need to examine. Deputy Pringle may have an influence on this himself. We should be able to restore the fisheries off the west and north-west coast in the same way as previous Governments did with the support of the fishing interests in the restoration of the Celtic Sea and the fishing boxes which apply there. We should consider this issue for the future interest of fishermen and their incomes and livelihoods.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle There is no doubt the quality of the scientific evidence has improved and it is aiding us in our negotiations. However, the fact is that the Common Fisheries Policy is recognised as a failed policy throughout Europe. Focusing on making the best of this failed policy is a zero sum game for the fishing industry. What we need is to focus on totally changing the overall policy and getting a fair share for our fishing communities. There is potential in aquaculture, but many communities still depend on fishing and should be supported. The potential for the economy as a whole is very significant. Countries such as France do not catch their quota in their own waters but we cannot increase ours. Fishermen end up having to dump more fish than they can land because of this and because of the unfairness and imbalance built into it from the historical situation. Will the Government consider examining the policy on a broader basis and attempt to change the historical situation to allow coastal communities remain viable?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Pringle is well aware there has been serious overfishing by the Faroe Islands and Iceland and this has led to calls by Ireland at EU level to have sanctions imposed. In the context of restoration of fisheries off the coast we need co-operation here and a strategy and plan to let nature take its course and build up those stocks where fishing can apply. The Minister allowed smaller boats to avail of fishing this year. Despite the very good decision made by a previous Government in respect of drift net fishing-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Am I hearing something?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Yes you are. Deputy Martin is listening at last and I thank him.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch Very selective hearing.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is definitely getting close to Christmas if a former Government is praised.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Despite the decision on drift net fishing I hear allegations of illegal fishing off the coast of Deputy Martin's county. I do not know whether it is true. There is an issue in respect of the mortality rate among the Atlantic salmon population and it cannot be put down to drift net fishing. Whether it is carbon or another issue there is a need for scientific analysis. Speaking to those who know about these things there are concerns as the mortality rate is much higher than it should be.

This is an issue in which everyone has an interest. The development of aquaculture, taking into account environmental sensitivities and the opportunity for economic development and jobs, is one issue. There the restoration of fisheries with the assistance and co-operation of the fishing interests, and the scientific analysis which is ongoing. Will we be able to reverse the situation from 35 or 40 years ago? Not just now. However, we have defined Ireland's territorial ownership of underwater ground, which is 200 million acres as far as Rockall. On each occasion a Minister with responsibility for fisheries representing our country has been in Brussels in recent years it is the quality of the scientific data which has stood this country in very good stead and we will continue with this effort.

Order of Business

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is proposed to take No. 27, Statements on European Council, Brussels; No. a7, Appropriation Bill 2012 - Order for Second Stage, Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 1, National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 - amendments from the Seanad; and No. 2 - Personal Insolvency Bill 2012 - amendments from the Seanad.

  It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn not later than 10.30 p.m.; the proceedings on No. 27 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 85 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be made by the Taoiseach and by the main spokespersons for Fianna Fail, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed 5 minutes; No. a7 shall be taken today and Second and Remaining Stages shall be decided without debate by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform; the proceedings on No. 1 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes and any amendments from the Seanad not disposed of shall be decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments to the Seanad amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality; in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, which shall be No. 93 – motion re carers (resumed), Standing Order 121(3) shall not apply and Private Members’ business shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; and the proceedings on No. 2 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. tonight and any amendments from the Seanad not disposed of shall be decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall, in relation to amendments to the Seanad amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality.


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