Thomas Pringle TD

What Has Government Been Doing Over The Last Three Years?

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said the fiasco in relation to UK-registered fishing vessels operating in Irish waters begs the important question: How could the Government not have considered this?

Addressing the Dáil today on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, Deputy Pringle said: “When we consider that fishing and quotas were to the fore in every discussion about Brexit over the last three years how is it that this situation has arisen? In what other departments and situations could other problems arise? 

“I have to wonder what our government has been doing over the last three years if this is what we get,” he said.

He said: “How could the Department, Government, and Department of Foreign Affairs in the three years since the Brexit deal not consider this issue. It has meant that fishermen have had to push and lobby to have a realistic operating procedure put in place. Indeed, with the announcement on Monday the Minister has moved to allay some of the problems but is this all that you could come up with?”

The deputy said the trade and cooperation agreement is necessary for both the UK and members of the EU.

Deputy Pringle said: “We know that, rightly so, a lot of the conversation about the impact of Brexit on our island is the threat to peace and the return of a hard border on the island. But a lot of the day-to-day impacts are on the people who are working in the fishing industry, on people who didn’t swap over their drivers’ licenses, on the .ie websites who use a UK company for distribution, on NGOs reliant on EU funding.

“These are just a few small examples of issues that have been highlighted over the past few weeks. The wider impacts have yet to be seen and we do have the double whammy of Brexit plus Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions to deal with,” he said.

He said Ireland ended up losing 15 per cent of its fishing quotas, including 24 per percent of mackerel, “which is particularly bad because we could have caught all our mackerel quota within Irish waters if we wanted to.”

Deputy Pringle said: “At least if the government had the guts to say that we are going to sell fishing down the tubes to get other things you might have some respect for them. Or if our so-called partners had said if you want us to support the Good Friday Agreement, we want your fishing to go, it might be explainable. 

“But for the government to be constantly selling the line that ‘we are all in it together’ is simply not the case.”

He concluded: “If you are serious now you will announce today that you are going to push for a complete renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy, but I don’t think that is even in you.

“And for this reason, I will not be supporting this deal,” he said.