23 July 2008

When Emer met Emer Jane

A rather bizarre incident has been reported from the Irish coast and is now making the round in the local fishing and seafaring community in our area. Yesterday at around 12 noon the L.É. Emer (photo below), one of eight patrol vessels operated by the Irish Naval Service, approached and stopped the local fishing boat Emer Jane (the strange similarity of both names is a pure coincidence) off Hook Head in Co. Wexford, a few dozen miles from here.

L.É. Emer sent a boarding party across to her almost namesake, with orders to inspect the vessel and check for 'illegal catches'. The naval personnel discovered an amount of about 200 scallops on the deck of the Emer Jane, which the vessel had obtained as so-called 'by-catch', which is fish that is found in the nets even though a different species had been fished for.
According to current EU regulations, 'by-catches' are supposed to be thrown back overboard and not used for commercial purposes. Most 'by-caught' fish is dead by the time it is discovered in the nets. If sold, it could do some good, feeding people and keeping fishermen alive. But throwing dead fish back into the water helps no-one and does no good at all.
Whoever came up with such a totally senseless and impractical rule should be shipped out on a vessel and thrown overboard himself!

The Captain of the L.É. Emer ordered the Emer Jane to proceed under escort to the fishing port of Dunmore East in Co. Waterford, just a few miles down river from where I am now. The skipper of the Irish-owned vessel refused to follow these orders and set instead course for his home port Kilmore Quay in Co. Wexford, telling the L.É. Emer over ship-to-ship radio that they "could arrest him there" if they so wished.
Not certain what the fisherman's intention were, and concerned for the safety of his men, the CO of the L.É. Emer ordered his boarding party off the Emer Jane and let her sail on to Kilmore Quay. So - the way it looked at the moment is: L.É. Emer 0 - Emer Jane 1.

But this was not the end of it, although from now on the sequence of events is disputed between the crews of both vessels. The skipper of the Emer Jane claims that he was threatened by the naval vessel, which was apparently prepared to fire warning shots across her bow.
The crew of the L.É. Emer denies that, and Lieutenant Commander Terry Ward, spokesman for the Naval Service, stated categorically that no order to open fire was given by the CO of L.É. Emer. (Please keep in mind that all this is still about nothing more than a couple of boxes of Scallop...)

But this minor and for the world, Europe and even Ireland unimportant incident highlights a much larger and really serious problem. Our own Naval Service, as small as it is, has the purpose to defend the country in case of any attack from the sea, and to protect Irish interests in all coastal waters and anywhere else at sea. And it does usually a very good and professional job.

It should never be the purpose of the Naval Service to threaten the livelihood of our fishermen and to harass them at sea with silly inspections and the narrow interpretation of senseless EU rules. Nevertheless, the ever and ever more bureaucratic and inhumane way EU laws and regulations are formulated, interpreted and enforced makes a mockery of the idea of a free Ireland as part of a Europe of the Fatherlands, with space for everyone, his culture, lifestyle and existence.

Tensions within the Irish fishing community remain high, due to concerns over fuel prices and the continuing uncertainty over possible emergency aid from Brussels. A protest, organised by Munster MEP Kathy Sinnott (Independent) to mark the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Dublin, involved a number of the most seriously effected fishing families.
They handed out free fish to Dubliners on O'Connell Bridge, thus making themselves seen and heard to the usually indifferent general public of the capital and the political leaders of both Ireland and France.

The Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF), which was not part of the protest, made instead a submission to Monsieur Sarkozy in which it called for "root and branch reform" of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.

FIF chairman Gerard O'Flynn told the French President that despite the extensive benefits to the Irish economy from EU membership, these "did not extend to the fishing industry".
Recent significant increases in fuel costs had "brought the Irish fleet to the brink of ruin", he said.

As I am writing this, there is an angry and defiant mood in the local fishing community. Normally the relationship between Irish fishermen and the nation's maritime defence arm is quite good and friendly. But if any naval vessel would enter the port of Kilmore Quay tonight, it might not receive a very warm welcome there.
Fishermen say that the constantly rising cost of fuel makes it ever harder for them to earn a living, and they also complain that the Irish Naval Service apparently controls and inspects their boats more often and more thoroughly than French, Spanish and other foreign vessels fishing in Irish waters. If this is indeed the case, it is very hard to understand and does not make sense. If the Naval Service is to control our waters and to police the fishing activities under EU rules, the same law and regulations should apply to everyone, and in equal measures.

Once again the ignorance of our government and its lack of interest in vital elements of our rural society and economy creates problems where there should be none.
Abolishing the long-established and traditional Department of the Marine after the last general election was a major mistake. Things became even worse by handing its portfolio over to the Department of Transport under the landlubber Noel Dempsey, who comes from the southwest of county Meath and has no sense for anything maritime.

And with regards to the Defence Forces (including the Naval Service) it would help if they were to have a decent minister in charge of their department.
One still wonders if it was a practical joke by Bertie Ahern or the former Taoiseach's plain incompetence in all matters military that led to the appointment of the political comedian and Fianna Fáil hyper-loyalist Willie O'Dea to the post of Minister for Defence.

When things are going wrong, a fish begins to smell from the head downwards. Not only the Irish fishermen know what this piece of wisdom means...

The Emerald Islander


Anonymous said...

Noel Dempsey is from Meath you penis

Ceit said...

In spite of anonymous's abusive and childish pedanticism, you have captured well the crux of the situation - the Irish Defence Forces are being employed to defend the EUs unjust system of managing Irish Territorial Waters. I would like to remind readers that the Proclamation declares the right of the ownership of Ireland to the people of Ireland to be sovereign and indefeasible and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies - now it seems, not even our rivers run free. Support the Irish Fishermen.

Anonymous said...

Our naval service do a very honourable job,but could you please give the fishermen a break.

Anonymous said...

Irish naval warships would never threaten fishermen by using the ships weapons.
The skipper of the trawler was obviously bullshiting.

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