McGuinness: Taoiseach needs to explain rushed imposition of penalty point system on the fishing industry

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has expressed his alarm and disappointment that the Taoiseach has signed off on controversial fisheries penalty point regulations without consultation with the fishing industry. Micheál Martin is acting as interim Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine due to his Government’s failure to keep a Minister in that department for more than a few weeks.

McGuinness said:

I am alarmed and disappointed by the rush to sign these regulations, which give effect to a deeply controversial and dubious system of penalty points that will target sea fisheries licences. Micheál Martin must surely know that previous attempts to introduce a penalty points scheme have been mired in uncertainty, controversy and opposition. Its incredible that he signed off on regulations, in his role as interim Minister, and with zero consultation with the Irish fishing industry. 

“The last two Fine Gael-led governments attempted to introduce a penalty points system, but this was first overturned in the Supreme Court as it was deemed unjust and then the last Dáil passed a motion to annul and rescind a subsequent regulations. Micheál Martin must remember this as the motion was put forward by his party’s then spokesperson on the Marine and Donegal TD Pat The Cope Gallagher.

“Fishing industry representatives have been clear all along. They are not opposed to a penalty points system but it must be a fair one, based on natural justice where the law enforcement agency (the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority in this case) must prove a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, with the right to appeal to the High Court and that no penalty points would be apportioned to any boat if the owners are successful in their appeal or defence. 

“The fishing community around the Irish coast has been severely hit by the global pandemic and they have been abandoned by their government without any adequate financial support. They are also deeply worried about the growing danger to their industry from a no deal outcome in Brexit trade negotiations.

“This Government of chaos has already gone through two senior ministers in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Of the two junior ministers appointed to that Department, neither of them has been given responsibility for fisheries. The Taoiseach, as interim Minister, is making ground-breaking decisions without even a pretence of consultation. Its becoming very clear to the fishing industry and to coastal communities that this new coalition has no interest in them, their welfare, or the great potential of Ireland’s maritime economy.”

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