Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on the Marine Pat the Cope Gallagher says the Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine must scrap plans for a penalty points system for fishing infringements following a Supreme Court ruling which deemed the practice to be contrary to fair procedures.

Deputy Gallagher commented, “Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling copperfastens the argument that I had been making to Minister Creed for the past number of months.  Fishermen across the country have been expressing serious concerns about the move to introduce penalty points for fishing infringements because of the serious impact these sanctions would have on the sector.

“The Statutory Instrument to Minister had prepared does not afford the fishermen or the vessel owners the right to appeal to an Irish Court – which is completely contrary to Irish Common Law principles and as such would be repugnant to our constitutional rights of appeal in the case of criminal law.

“I became most concerned when I was made aware earlier last month, that it was the intention of the Minister to lay a new Statutory Instrument (SI) before the house to give effect to a penalty points system.  I have raised this issue in the Dáil on a number of occasions as well as engaging directly with the Minister himself.

“Any attempts to introduce penalty points for fishing infringements in the future must afford vessel owners and fishermen the rights of appeal to the Irish court. The proposed system does not give them that right, it also, in my view, relies too heavily on the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA), and does not afford the sector a voice on the board of determination, and most serious of all it only gives the right to vessel owners and fishermen the right to appeal to the Irish courts on a point of law – which is contrary to our constitutional rights under common law principles.

“In light of the Supreme Court decision, I believe the Statutory Instrument must now be withdrawn.  The Minister needs to engage with the fishing industry to determine a pathway forward on this issue.  I will be continuing to raise this matter with the Minister to seek a better approach in how we deal with this matter from here on in”, concluded Pat the Cope Gallagher.