23rd May

Fisheries penalty point system 'a step too far'

Fianna Fáil marine spokesperson deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has tabled a motion to rescind Statutory Instrument (SI) No 89 of 2018 introducing a penalty point system for fishing infringements.

Gallagher

"I am determined this SI will not see day light and that government will have to go back to the drawing board." All costs, the rights and entitlements of the fishermen under Irish law should be protected, he said.  

Support in principle

Deputy Gallagher explained that while Fianna Fáil supported the introduction of penalty points "in principle", he said the system needed to respect the rights of the individual, that natural justice should be allowed to occur and that common law rights should be upheld:

"It is therefore essential that any new points system for fishing infringements must work within the remit of the Irish courts." 

The SI placed before the Dáil "seriously undermines" the rights of the individual fisherman and vessel owners, he added.

"It bizarrely bypasses both the circuit and district courts and establishes a new structure which is answerable to no one other than the Sea-fisheries Protection Authority."

Burden of proof

Despite being "strongly directed" by the Surpreme 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, to separate the powers and independence of the SFPA and the processes which will determine whether an infringement occured of not," the deputy stressed. 

Guilty from outset

Fishermen and vessel owners are being treated as "guilty parties from the outset" faced with the burden of proof to prove their innocence as opposed to the state making a case against them, he said. 

"More farcial than this, if a successful appeal is lodged, the penalty poiints remain on the licence of the vessel owners despite them winning the case."

Deputy Gallagher said the party had "serious reservations" regarding this secondary legislation.

"It appears government has failed to address the issues raised in the Irish courts. This latest SI repeats the errors of previous pieces of legislation."

Government must introduce a system that is both fair and balanced. "The government cannot treat fishermen as lesser class citizens before the law, nor can the Minister circumvent the directives of our courts and constitution." 

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