Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on the Marine & Fisheries Pat the Cope Gallagher has tabled a motion on behalf of his party to rescind the recently published Statutory Instrument (SI)  No 89 0f 2018 – which was set to introduce a penalty point system for fishing infringements.

The measure to introduce the statutory instrument was moved late last year by Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed.  The government has attempted to introduce a similar statutory instrument on fishing infringements on two previous occasions, but it ended up in the Supreme Court where it was subsequently struck down.

Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher explained, “Fianna Fáil as a party is supportive of the introduction of a penalty points system for fishing infringements as requested under the EU control regulations providing the rights of the individual are respected, that natural justice is allowed to occur and our common law rights are upheld. It is therefore essential that any new points system for fishing infringement must work within the remit of the Irish courts.

“The statutory Instrument placed before the Dáil by Minister Creed seriously undermines the rights of individual fishermen and vessel owners throughout the country, and it bizarrely bypasses both the Circuit and District Courts by establishing a new structure which is answerable to no one other than the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority.

“Despite being strongly directed by the Supreme Court, the government has failed to provide for the right of appeal to the individual, to deal adequately with the onus of the burden of proof, or to separate the powers and independence of the SFPA and the processes which will determine whether an infringement has occurred or not.

“Furthermore, in line with the previous SIs, the fishermen and vessel owners were being treated as guilty parties from the outset – with the burden of proof being placed on them to prove their innocence as opposed to the state making a case against them, and more worrying than that, was the fact that penalty points would remain on the licence of the vessel owners, even if they had been successful in their appeal.  This was an issue that was highlighted by the Supreme Court previously.

“We have serious reservations regarding this piece of secondary legislation, especially given the fact that the Supreme Court has already twice expressed its reservations on this matter. It appears the Government has failed to address the issues raised in the Irish Courts and the latest SI repeats the errors of previous pieces of legislation.

“I have brought forward proposals to the party’s front bench to take the unprecedented move to place a motion before the Dáil to rescind the SI on the grounds that the legislation is flawed and contrary to our rights as citizens of this state. The government must introduce primary legislation to properly introduce a system which is both fair and balanced. It cannot treat fishermen as lesser class citizens before the law, nor can the Minister circumvent the directives of our courts and constitution. Even in recent days the Attorney General voiced his reservations regarding this legislation but the government remains resolute in attempting to bring this SI forward.

“I am determined that this SI will not see the light of day.  The government needs to go back to the drawing board and ensure that the rights and entitlements of the fishermen are protected under Irish law. This SI is a step too far”, concluded Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher.