Committee on Finance. - Vote 46—Fisheries (Resumed).

Thursday, 14 June 1962

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 196 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 43 Next Page Last Page

Debate resumed on the motion:

“That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.”— (Deputy O.J. Flanagan.)

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  Continuing my reference to the mussel industry in Castlemaine harbour, I should like to say that there is definite need for the construction of a concrete apron that would allow the mussels to be cleansed when landed so that they would arrive at the processing plant in a clean and proper condition. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to arrange for the laying down of such landing aprons.

I should like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to what I consider was a very damaging exhibit at the Spring Show.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Order, please. The Deputy cannot be heard.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  In my travels through the show grounds, I came upon the Fisheries Division exhibition. On display was a sample of mussels which were marked as marketable mussels and which comprised very small mussles, about an inch in length. I do not know who was responsible for putting those mussels on show as being the type produced in this country. No doubt, the eyes of the world were on the show grounds. Whoever was responsible for displaying that sample of mussels should be asked for an explanation. If the Department had not enough initiative to get proper samples to exhibit, they would have been much better advised not to exhibit at all.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is a mussel an inch long a marketable mussel?

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  A mussel other than one of two inches and which is [283] measured through a two-inch ring would not be suitable.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  How could the Department show a one-inch mussel?

Mr. Lenihan: Information on Brian Lenihan Snr.  Zoom on Brian Lenihan Snr.  Of course, I repudiate it.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  It was there—a tiny little mussel.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I cannot believe that the Department over which I presided would do that.

Mr. Lenihan: Information on Brian Lenihan Snr.  Zoom on Brian Lenihan Snr.  I am with the Deputy.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that was the type of mussel the Department had on show. I was amazed to see stated underneath it that it was marketable.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I think it was illegal.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  I think so. The ordinary marketable mussel is two and a half inches long and is as broad. If I remember correctly, there were about a half dozen of those tiny things on show. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary I have a most reputable witness whom I can take round to the Department, if necessary. He is a Kerryman living in Dublin and he knows all about mussels. I am not making statements here about something I did not see. It did not strike me at the time that it was illegal but it is quite obvious now it was. How are we to adopt a modern outlook if that is the type of material dished out by our Departments?

I should like to refer to our sea coast fishing and to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the fact that in Ballinskelligs 50 years ago, there were at least 45 fishermen using small rowing boats but that there is not a single boat fishing in that bay today. That is another example——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Of the five year plan.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to turn his attention to the smaller areas, the smaller inlets, rather than concentrate altogether on the big schemes. The policy of the Department in this matter [284] to date has not been reaching the kernel of the problem. We will not be doing that until we get down to the smaller areas and get them into production. Those people might be encouraged to start with small motorboats and eventually branch out into bigger efforts. There is no doubt that we could land large quantities of fish off the Kerry coast, if we were properly organised.

Moving on to salmon fishing and to the general question of our inland fisheries, much progress has been made in this field. We have been using large sums of public money to develop those fisheries and one side of it I do not like — this is happening continuously—is that large stretches of our best fisheries are being bought up by single individuals who happen to have the money and who go into possession of these valuable waters and keep all others out.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  I hope the Parliamentary Secretary is listening to that.

Mr. O'Connor: Information on Timothy O'Connor  Zoom on Timothy O'Connor  At least those people should be made to pay some form of tax. At the moment they are completely free of rates to the local authorities and of many other forms of taxation as well. They are helped out by public money and can buy up any stretch of river—usually the best—to the exclusion of the angling clubs. Some steps should be taken to remedy this, even if it meant amending the law, so that these profitable fishing stretches will be left available for the angling clubs who cater for the valuable tourist trade.

In my area there are about 50 boats fishing a 12 mile stretch of coast and they are now covered by the five-day-a-week control system. There is an average of two families to each boat— about 100 families are concerned altogether — and I think it would be worth considering allowing these people to fish an extra day each week. They have had a very poor living, particularly since last January. Their whole livelihood depends upon this and I trust the Minister will see fit to adjust the law to allow them to fish that extra day. After all, they are entitled [285] to take advantage of what is in front of their doors.

Having put that case in respect of the entire Kerry coast, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to get to work on it as quickly as he can. He has a tough job controlling a Department who have been sitting down for years and allowing the fishing industry, once so lucrative, to pass out of our hands. He has a terrific job but he is young enough to face up to colossal tasks. I would again emphasise that he has a duty to the smaller people in the smaller areas. I can assure him that if he comes down to Kerry, we shall be only too happy to show him the small inlets in respect of which no effort has yet been made by the Department in the matter of assistance.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  This morning, I listened to Deputy O.J. Flanagan's monumental speech on fishing and fishery development and I was astonished to find in our midst such an expert on the fishery business. A fact which amazed me more than that was that I happened to know that for a considerable period he was in charge of fishery development in this country and that during all that time, and with all his profound knowledge, he failed to lift one finger to do anything about it. What really amazed me was to find a man who comes from the very centre of Ireland where fishing, as I know it, does not exist telling us that, according to himself, he has a profound knowledge of fishing. I am not influenced by his pretended knowledge and, for good measure, I may say that unless my memory fails me, it is not so many years ago, about 1949, that the Leader of Deputy Flanagan's Party said that he both hated and loathed fish. I know he hates the type of fish I happen to be.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Which is cod.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  Having said so much about Deputy Flanagan's alleged knowledge and interest in fishing, I want to congratulate my namesake, the Parliamentary Secretary, on his new and good approach to the fishing problem.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  He comes [286] from the seaboard county of Roscommon.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  When Deputy M.P. Murphy commented on the fact that any person coming from the midlands could not know much about fishing, I wonder if he had paid any attention to the case of Deputy Flanagan who comes from within a few miles of Deputy Lenihan. If Deputy Lenihan knows one-tenth as much about fishing as Deputy Flanagan professes to know about it, we will have no trouble at all. I have spent all my life in the fishing industry and I am only trotting behind Deputy Flanagan in my knowledge of it.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Hear, hear.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  Fishing obtains all around our coast and for that reason the man who deals with it might be best to come from the centre of the country because he could then take an unbiased view of the whole situation. No matter how little Deputy Lenihan might do about the fishing industry he cannot do less than Deputy Flanagan did. I hope he is not going to carry out the Duffy's Circus act which was carried out by Deputy Flanagan when he travelled around the coast line and spent a day here and a night there in every little fishing place in Ireland. I hope that Deputy Lenihan will not follow suit and that if he does something more practical will come from his journey.

The news made known to us by Deputy Lenihan some weeks ago is of great interest to my part of the country. The cost of boats and gear is high but under his scheme that matter is going to be greatly smoothed over. That applies to boats, engines and gear. They are now going to be made available on what I consider to be very good terms. Although I spoke harshly of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara on former occasions I claim that I had a good right to do so. However, if the Parliamentary Secretary's plans come to fruition and if the Board carries out these plans, I think that in 12 months' time I should be in a position to withdraw a lot of the things I said some time ago about the Board. I hope I will be placed in that position.

[287] It is remarkable how some people believe everything they hear. The people who know nothing about fishing are the people who live furthest away from it and do very little of it. Yet the midland Deputies seem to know a great deal about fishing. I do not know where they got their knowledge— perhaps it is from reading books—but I suggest that the type of fishing which is in the minds of a good many of them is not the type of fishing with which the people along our coasts are acquainted.

I heard stated here today that there should be depots here, there and everywhere for the distribution of fish. I am not so sure about that and I am not sure that if the fish was handed out free in the midlands the people there would eat it. They are better at telling fishy tales than at eating fish and I am not sure that the alleged markets exist in the midlands or could be brought into existence. We know well that there are areas where the people eat fish and would eat more than they can get. These are the coastal areas and it would take years and years to influence the people of the midlands so that they might have any kind of a worthwhile market for fish. Our first obligation is to provide fish for the people who eat it and not for any hypothetical markets.

If fish were available in the coastal areas there would be no trouble in selling it. With modern equipment and the modern methods of preserving fish, there is no reason why it should not be available where the market exists. When that market is satisfied, it will be time to expand and develop the alleged potential of the midlands. We must provide proper landing facilities for our fish and the four major ports suggested are not going to provide sufficient landing facilities. We should not continue to carry on building piers the way the British built them years ago. They built a pier on dry land and then dug a hole around it but the day of that type of place is practically finished. As the years go by and the facilities for bigger boats become available, that type of British pier and slip would be useless to our people.

[288] While providing the four major fishing harbours, it would be foolish to overlook the smaller places where a small expenditure could bring untold improvement and make fishing much more advantageous and a really national industry. Boats are becoming more plentiful along the west coast and, despite the allegation that there are fewer people fishing now, that has not been my experience in any way. The numbers are increasing. More people are taking boats and engaging in fishing. The people along the west coast are taking the smaller type of boat.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I think we should have a House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  There is a House.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  The Deputy is not able to count. Even a small expenditure on these minor fishing centres would be of tremendous value to the fishermen. We have had an example of it already in my own area of Blacksod. On one occasion Deputy Flanagan shed crocodile tears and told us how sorry he was to see the terrible conditions there and how soon he would put them right.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  That is the day the Deputy was crying with me.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  I am glad to say the present Parliamentary Secretary has now put them right. We will be asking him for some further improvements and I expect we will get them too. I would ask him to make an examination of the requirements of the west coast, particularly of my own constituency — it is up to other Deputies to look after themselves — and give us the minor facilities we need. This could be done at a reasonably low cost.

There is not a great deal of use catching fish if there is not some way of disposing of them. Therefore, marketing facilities will have to be developed and, with them, proper transport facilities. But if we could first supply the fish, then we would be able to deal with the marketing and transport end. It is no use having marketing and transport if we have [289] no fish. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary was right in making available first the facilities for catching fish.

Are we going to reach the stage when we will have no fish left to catch? I am afraid in regard to some species of fish we are rapidly approaching that day. Definitely our stocks of lobster have fallen greatly. That is little wonder because we are the only country in the world where spawning lobster can be taken and sold with impunity. It is all right to say that a lobster under nine inches cannot be taken and marketed legally. That is a joke. It need not be marketed legally, but it can be eaten. There is no law to prevent any man from capturing the spawning lobster and selling them, and it is being done wholesale. Surely it is not beyond the powers of the Fishery Division to find a method of combating that? We have a law which prevents people capturing and marketing spawning salmon. There is an equally lucrative if not a better market for lobster. Yet we are allowing our stocks to dwindle away. They just take these fish any time and any place they want. They can sell them anywhere they want because there is an unlimited market for them. Nobody has done anything about it, and at this late stage I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to step in and do something.

Apart from that, there is the question of mass poaching along the west coast. French, Spanish and English trawlers — particularly French — are in there capturing lobsters by the thousand. They take them away with impunity and do whatever they want with them. We happen to know these gentlemen are well equipped with large stocks of brandy. Our coast is well served with lighthouses and I understand most of the boys in the lighthouses are not averse to a drink of brandy. If my information is correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, these gentlemen are able to signal to these foreign boats when the corvettes are coming in sight.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I hope Deputy Leneghan can prove that himself. If not, he should not make such a charge in this House, where it cannot be replied to.

[290]Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  The Deputy appears to be their spokesman.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Deputy Leneghan made a very serious charge. Unless he is prepared to prove it, he should withdraw.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I do not know against whom he made the charges.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Against the lighthouse-keepers, a decent body of men.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I do not think he named anybody.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  I have not finished at all yet.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The Deputy finished before he started.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  It applies to more than the lighthouse-keepers. There are several other people along the coast who engage in this illicit traffic in spirits and who are only too anxious to see these people, who are nothing more than marauders, come into their midst and who welcome them with open arms while our fishermen have to suffer as a result. It is a pity the Deputy attacking me was not here this morning when his colleague made the very opposite kind of statement from his own. It is no use for anybody to be so foolish as to say it is not true. It is happening wholesale and our fishermen, particularly along the West coast, are suffering colossal losses as a result. It is no use for a corvette to set out because the French and Spanish boats know it and the corvettes cannot capture them. There is no such thing as co-operation. Until a proper system of protection is established, where these raiders and poachers are taken in and made to suffer proper penalties for their misdeeds, this will continue.

It is well known that these people are taking thousands of salmon in the ocean, and nothing is being done about it. But if the ordinary man in the country goes out with a net and takes one salmon, he is probably put into jail. Yet these people can get away with thousands of salmon and there is not a word about it. Our salmon stocks are also dwindling because of the mass [291] poaching of a different type carried on by people who can catch these fish at will, take them to an hotel and sell them. I have no time for the hotelier who purchases poached salmon. He charges enough for it on the plate to be able to pay for it on the open market, and even then one would need a magnifying glass to see what he gives after paying practically nothing for it. It may be that another Minister has to deal with that. I certainly hope the Parliamentary Secretary will bring it to his attention and that he will see to it the law is enforced.

The propagation and conservation of all these prime fish of high quality, such as lobster, cray fish, salmon and trout, is absolutely paramount for us to-day. There is also the question of the pollution of rivers, which is going on wholesale. It is not a question of Bord na Móna polluting rivers. There are people much worse, but there is no word about them. You have various types of factories throughout the country. The owners of these factories do not make even the slightest effort to control pollution or to see to it that these rivers are left in such a way that fish can propagate in them.

Fish are a raw material which cost us nothing. They can provide the basis not alone of a colossal fishing industry but of ancillary industries as well. It is extraordinary that any sane person should go out and try to damage one of our greatest natural resources and yet that is being done wholesale.

Very little is being done, despite much talk and the obvious semblance on paper of things being done, about artificial propagation of fish. For that purpose this year, I see the sum of £1,050 is allocated. That would not tag many calves under the BTE scheme, not to mention the propagation of fish. The amount should be far higher. For the Salmon Research Trust, there is a sum of £1,000. Any Deputy knows he cannot do much with £1,000 and I cannot see that any great good can be got from that expenditure. The amount in the Salmon Conservancy Fund has gone up by £9,000 to £25,000. The value of this industry [292] properly developed must be colossal, and if we are to get results, something must be done to propagate fish and conserve them. If not, the people coming after us — and they will not have long to wait — will curse us for our inefficiency.

I am glad that at last a Parliamentary Secretary has taken charge who is setting out to do something for the industry, but he is doing so at a very late hour. There should certainly be some type of research into salmon and trout. I believe that is possible. It is being done in other countries and is proving reasonably satisfactory in at least one of them. The value of salmon is so high that it is well worth the money spent in trying to propagate them. There is also the tremendous tourist draw that exists where fish are concerned. Salmon and trout are a big attraction, but, on the American coast, one of the greatest attractions is the lobster, where people go out, particularly from the coast of Maine, get lobsters and cook them on the seashore. If one wants really to enjoy the proper taste of lobster, that is the proper place to cook it. That brings tens of thousands to the area. We have the best lobsters in the world right on our doorstep but do nothing about them. If a tourist goes along to ask for a fish, as I know from my contact with people engaged in the lobster industry, they are probably insulted or given a short answer rather than fish, even though they are prepared to pay for it. That is a wrong state of affairs, but it continues.

As a tourist attraction alone, that side of fishery development is very important and should get early attention. In an area like Achill, one of the finest tourist areas we have, I doubt if you can get any lobster. One of the big drawbacks is that if a boat goes out, it cannot come in for lack of landing facilities. Some landing facilities — I would prefer to call it a death trap — were provided some years ago but are far from satisfactory, while at Darby's Point, there is a fine, natural landing place that could be made suitable for a small expenditure. It is in the midst of one of the finest lobster fishing grounds in the country. If [293] tourists knew they could get lobsters reasonably readily, they would be delighted to take advantage of it.

These fish are sold at reasonable prices in the west, not at the stupid prices prevailing in the markets or the still more ridiculous prices charged when they are dished up, often unimaginatively, in hotels. You can get them absolutely fresh in the west where they are at their best and it is a great pity that the means is not there to enable those who want to do so to take advantage of such an asset along our coast. No great trouble would be involved in its development and it would mean the expenditure of only a small amount of money. The men are there and the boats are becoming available; it is simply a matter of being able to land their catches.

There seems to be a particular liking among many fishermen along the west coast for 26 ft. or 28 ft. boats and along that coast there are very many competent boatbuilders. They should be asked to tender for the construction of such boats which they are quite capable of building. They should get the same opportunity of tendering as any boatyard at present producing these boats. If the tender is at all competitive, the local man should get the work as this would mean a local industry.

My final word is on fishery boards or boards of conservators. At present, these people are, in my opinion, personae non gratae generally and not without reason. Usually, they consist of British landlords or their sons or successors in title, people who in days gone by usurped everything we had and took it over from our people. Today they are entitled to carry on legally in the same state of occupation without let or hindrance. Then we talk about poaching of rivers. I see no difference between this poaching and the fight which our people had to make to get rid of people like the Black and Tans. The English people are there today controlling most of our salmon rivers and no ordinary Irishman may fish in these rivers in his own allegedly democratic country in 1962. That is an extraordinary situation. It is unfortunate that it is [294] true and even more unfortunate that no effort is being made to alter it.

The members of these boards are extraordinary fellows who wear funny hats and funnier coats. They sneer at the ordinary Irishman who attempts to be elected but the same gentlemen, on the day of the election to the board of conservators, have no hesitation in accepting the ordinary licensee's vote. But that is all they want from him. At the worst, some of us stand a drink to the electors after the election but you will get nothing from these “heroes” on the board of conservators, not even permission to fish, although you offer to pay for it.

Those boards are not elected democratically. When you consider that they are elected en bloc, that you cannot have three members for the sea division, and three for the fresh water division, and that one man can give a number one vote to each of those six and certainly give it to three of them, you will agree there is very little democracy in that.

Surely elections of boards of conservators should be carried out in the same way as any other type of election? Candidates should be put up. If it is to be a straight vote, let the people who get the highest number of votes be elected. However, when one section of the community can put up three, five or may be seven members and each person holding a licence can give a number one vote to each of these people and elect them en bloc, the thing is a joke. It means that 100 men can elect six people and 99 elect nobody.

I wonder is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of that? If he is not, I hope he will look into it and have it changed very soon. It must be the most undemocratic system outside that operated in the Six Counties. I do not believe there is anything like it in Europe and I honestly believe there are few members of this House who know about it. I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary to have legislation introduced at the earliest possible moment to wipe out that particularly un-Irish and undemocratic system. If he never did anything else except that, it would be worth while in order to ensure that [295] in the future we will have democratic boards of conservators because no matter how bad they were, they would at least be worthy of the confidence of the public.

As long as the public continue to believe that boards of conservators are controlled by people who are little better than British usurpers, we cannot expect to put an end to poaching as we know it. The matter is in the hands of the Parliamentary Secretary and I am sure he will get the wholehearted backing of this House if he introduces the necessary legislation and I hope he will do it as rapidly as possible.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Fintan Coogan  Zoom on Fintan Coogan  I was interested to hear the Deputy talking about fishing, coming from an area where he must have learned his fishing watching the French trawlers. However, the corvette could help to ease the situation off our coasts because this problem applies not alone to the Deputy's area but all around the west coast. The activities of these foreign trawlers and the way they affect our fishing by rooting up our fishing beds is to be deprecated. We see it day in and day out and it is about time the corvette had some other system. At the moment, foreigners give the signal ahead that the corvette is on the way round and unless some other device is used, our fishing beds cannot be protected.

There is a vast acreage off the coast in which we do not have to sow a crop but merely reap one. The Parliamentary Secretary will admit that we are not in a position to gather that crop. Assistance is given to the farmers who both sow and reap but we are only asking for assistance for those who are trying to reap the fishing harvest. With the full use of the Cú Feasa, it should be possible to get in touch with these shoals which abound around our coasts.

In regard to the further promotion of sea fishing, the Parliamentary Secretary is aware of the part played by the Galway Vocational Education Committee in the training of fishing trainees. I have the privilege of being a member of that committee and I wish to assure him that he will get the [296] full co-operation of that committee in regard to anything reasonable they are asked to do. There is one thing we are entitled to know: what is happening in regard to the giving out of fishing boats to the trainees? What is happening in regard to the encouragement of more trainees? A bigger part should be played in this by the radio, the Press, and television in trying to win over our youth to developing a taste or an inclination for the sea. The Fisheries Division will have to take more realistic steps in that regard. The Parliamentary Secretary must win their imagination. These three channels would be of great assistance to him and I am sure he would receive every co-operation.

Another very important question is the provision of piers around our coasts. Our coasts, especially in the west, are subject to quite a lot of rough weather. That is very discouraging to people going to sea in small crafts. On many occasions in this House, I have put before the Parliamentary Secretary the need for the development and improvement of the piers at Kilronan and Rossavea. These are two of the most important harbours off the west coast and they will help a lot in the development of our fisheries. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to take note of the need there is in these areas. Overnight, you could have a whole fleet of valuable boats broken to matchwood under certain conditions of wind. I have pressed the matter of the pier at Kilronan. I understand CIE are interested in view of their ferry-boat anchoring there and the extension of the present pier should help a lot to encourage fishermen by ensuring that their boats are safely tied up.

There is need to improve a great many slips around the west coast. The fishermen in that area provide in their own small way for their own households and those of neighbours. Quite a number of them engage in lobster fishing, and so on. The Parliamentary Secretary should have an investigation, I suggest, into the needs of the west.

Galway has been selected as one of the major fishing ports. We have a very modern plant there. It is important [297] that simultaneously with the development of the harbour, there should be development of the fleet. Whether we will have the chicken before the egg, or what, I do not know, but there is a most modern plant in Galway. The only drawback is that the provision of boats is much too slow. The Parliamentary Secretary should take steps to expedite the provision of boats in the area.

With regard to salmon, there was a feeling that the Corrib scheme had done a great deal of damage. I do not think it has done as much damage as some people say. The scarcity of salmon has been noticed not alone in the Corrib but also in rivers upon which no improvements were made and which were not irrigated. The numbers of salmon are decreasing each year in these areas. Steps should be taken to safeguard the salmon in the same way as steps are taken to safeguard pheasant stocks. Net fishing should be prevented in order to permit more fish up to spawn. It is deplorable the quantity of fish that are taken in a net. What the repercussions are on spawning I cannot say, but I should think they are immeasurable. The Parliamentary Secretary should do something to safeguard the position.

With regard to the supply and demand, there will be no demand unless there is continuity of supply. Lack of continuity and second-rate supplies are the main cause of our not being a fish-eating people. Unless first-quality fish are put on the market and people are assured of a continuous supply there will be no demand. That is something to which the Parliamentary Secretary should turn his attention.

The Cú Feasa has, I notice, been searching for fish in an area in which there is no need to search for fish, namely, around the east coast. The shoals are there and there is no need to search for them. The people can find them for themselves. There is much greater need for that boat to operate around the west coast. I have heard it said that the Parliamentary Secretary is a dry land sailor. It may be no harm to have that kind of mentality in charge of fisheries. It might shake up a few of [298] the diehards. It is, at least, a fresh mind. I believe the Parliamentary Secretary will do his best. I believe he will do a good job.

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I should like to congratulate the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary on the recently published programme in connection with sea fisheries development. The upsurge in the economy of the country since the Programme for Economic Expansion was first published has shown clearly the value of planning. I believe we can make progress now in relation to fisheries with the publication of this White Paper.

The White Paper outlines the manner in which it is proposed to develop our sea fisheries. Those who are in a position to know — our fishermen, with whom I have had many conversations with regard to the White Paper — believe that, if the policy adumbrated is vigorously pursued, it will produce worthwhile improvements in our fishing industry. The White Paper is welcomed generally by those connected with our fisheries.

Fishing as an occupation has always been a difficult and hazardous one, first, because of its nature and, secondly, because of the great variations in the size of the catches and the considerable fluctuations in the price of fish. This has tended to make fishing appear a less desirable mode of life, especially when the prospects of employment in traditional fishing areas improve because of the establishment of industries within convenient distance of fishing villages. I can see myself the effect that has. Young people are not as anxious to face the difficulties and trials of a fisherman's life as they were in former times when prospects of alternative employment were not so good. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that we should do everything we can to try to consolidate the position of the fisherman and his industry. I believe that is what the Parliamentary Secretary is endeavouring to do. As I said, years ago when the general standard of living was low, the children of fishermen were inclined to follow the [299] calling of their fathers. That day has passed and unless we can guarantee to our young people a worthwhile material advantage they will leave the industry and we will be left with one of our most important natural resources unworked. I have no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary has all this in mind.

It is most important that we should be able to guarantee our young fishermen a very worthwhile livelihood. Just as in agriculture so in fisheries, the methods that for centuries were good enough for the father, were good enough for the son. Any suggestion then that methods of fishing could be improved was resisted. I am glad to say that attitude has gone today and most of our fishermen, especially those who are taking note of the advantages their competitors with more up-to-date techniques have over them, are now very anxious to get as much training and acquire as much skill as possible. In that connection I am glad to note that An Bord Iascaigh Mhara are anxious to develop an advisory service to improve fishing techniques. This is particularly important when we remember that the cost of boats and gear is so very high. It is obvious we must make the best possible use of them and, to do that, it is essential that our young people should receive the very best training.

From the Parliamentary Secretary's statement it is obvious he is not satisfied with the progress in regard to the scheme for training skippers and training our young people generally as fishermen. These schemes, I believe, are not sufficiently publicised locally. In fishing villages as much publicity as possible should be given to the details of these schemes. It has been stated that any young Irishman will be welcome to train, no matter where he lives and irrespective of whether or not he has any previous experience. For a considerable time to come, however, I believe we will be dependent, in the main, on the young people reared in fishing villages, young people with a love of the sea and with fishing in their blood. For that reason, I believe we should concentrate as much [300] as possible at the moment on advertising the facilities available so as to make these facilities known particularly in our fishing villages. As the Parliamentary Secretary has stated, very generous allowances are now being paid to young boys anxious to take up fishing as a career. As I said, I think that the people generally still do not realise the prospects which are offering in this industry.

The problem of the size of our boats is one of long standing. We realise that if we are to progress in this industry it is essential that we should have more of the larger type boat. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary has drawn particular attention to that. In fact, he mentioned it in his statement. However, we must remember, on the other hand, that the cost of these very big boats is enormous. For that reason, I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that we should have a separate rate, separate terms, if that were possible, for these larger boats. I suggest that the term should be longer and, if possible, the interest rate lower.

If we compare our fleet at the present time with the fleets of most maritime countries it is, to say the least of it, rather meagre. I think we should, where we can, endeavour to encourage our people to get a larger type of boat. As I said, if we are to develop our industry as it should be developed, it is necessary that we should be able to go further out to sea and to stay out longer. The fishermen in my constituency are very pleased with the new rates which were published by the Parliamentary Secretary some time ago. I think, in deciding these rates, the Government recognised that the rates which then existed were stagnating the interest. In my view, this will be a very considerable help to our fishermen.

I suggested on a number of occasions before that the Government should consider subsidising the buying of gear. I know there are difficulties in regard to this matter. Gear at the present time is very expensive. Where gear is damaged, it is very difficult from the financial point of view to replace it. I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary [301] to give some consideration to this matter. The proposal to pay 25 per cent, towards the installation of new engines is a step along the right lines. I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary would consider going on similar lines with regard to the subsidisation of fishing gear?

Some time ago, a Swedish expert recommended certain ports in this country for major development. This, again, is something which is on the right lines. If we are to develop our industry, it is absolutely essential that we should have at least a number of first-class harbours with all the necessary facilities for our fishermen. I will say that I was disappointed that Clogherhead was not chosen as one of the main fishing ports. It has many advantages. The fact that so many new boats have been got there in recent years is surely proof in itself that the people there are forward-looking in regard to this industry and that they are anxious to develop it. As I say, I had hoped that Clogherhead would be chosen. As it has not been chosen, I am at least glad that a considerable amount of construction work is being done in the way of the development of the harbour there.

Recently, the people in Clogherhead were rather anxious with regard to the progress being made on this development work. They claimed the work was not proceeding as rapidly as it should. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance has told me that the work is progressing at the rate at which they expected it would progress and that there is no reason why it should not finish on the scheduled date. I hope this forecast will prove to be accurate, and at the moment I think it should prove so.

I have been interested in the marketing of fish since I become a member of this House. Before coming here, I often wondered why we had such a small consumption, per head of the population, of fish in a country like Ireland which is a maritime country. I have come to the conclusion, having done some research into this matter some years ago, that the main factors involved which cause our difficulty are marketing and distribution. [302] I think we can only say that our system of distribution in this country is notoriously bad. Supplies are irregular even in villages and towns close to fishing ports. Our people generally never get the opportunity of acquiring a taste for fish. Perhaps, more important still is the fact that the housewife is unable to plan meals on the basis of using fish because she can never be sure she will get it.

I am glad to note that the Parliamentary Secretary in his statement has said that an effort will now be made to get certain retailers throughout the country to stock fresh and frozen fish. This will be a worthwhile start. If we are to do this effectively, it will be necessary to carry out a very extensive advertising campaign. This could be done in the papers — local papers as well as national papers — and on television.

I feel that if we were simply to make these stocks available in shops, considering our present low consumption of fish, without making an effort to advertise the fact that these fish were available in certain places then the fish would be unlikely to be bought. For that reason, it is essential that when we do come to the point at which certain people all over the country will be stocking the fish we should endeavour to the best of our ability to let the community there know that this fish is available and that it will be available at regular intervals.

I was glad, also, to note in the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that he recognises the very worthwhile importance of the home market. While the home market is an important base for most industries I think there is no industry for which it is so important as this one. It is essential that we should develop our export trade by first building a sure foundation in the home market for the obvious reason that export sales change very rapidly. We may have a very good export trade at one period and a not so good one at another period. Unless our fishermen are guaranteed a market we shall continue to have the difficulties we have always experienced.

[303] Again, with regard to the home market, the White Paper mentions various suggestions as to how it may be improved. I do not need to mention them here. I hope the policy which is adopted in this White Paper will be pushed on vigorously.

I have had some complaints from fishermen in my constituency in regard to imports. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would give a detailed explanation as to why certain imports are allowed in when it appears to us that there is no need for them. I appreciate that at certain times in the year if we are to keep up a regular supply and if we have not got sufficient supplies of fish at home it is necessary to import. We have found, however, on some occasions in my constituency that fish were imported when we had in fact enough fish.

With regard to the export trade I notice that it is laid down that there will be a standard of quality necessary before fish are allowed to be exported. We recognise that this is, of course, essential in any industry if we are, not only to break into a market, but to hold it and in regard to fish it is most essential that the quality be high.

I do not think that to speak on the development of sea fishing as a tourist attraction would be in order on this Estimate but I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give some consideration to providing some money towards the construction of boats for that purpose. We have excellent fishing grounds in my constituency for that purpose. Quite recently what I might term the newly developed fishery at Carlingford Lough has come to the fore. A month ago 5,249 pounds of fish were landed there. That is an attraction to anyone in any country who is interested in fishing and it would be a very considerable encouragement if the Parliamentary Secretary could devote some of the funds available to him towards helping to provide more boats, or to pay part of the construction costs.

The matter of the fishery limits has been mentioned. Naturally we are very anxious that the fishery limits [304] should be extended. We all recognise that there are difficulties but we hope the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government will push with all their might in an endeavour to get agreement on this question which, in my estimation, is of vital importance to the fishing community. It has been said here, from the Fine Gael benches I think, by one speaker that he did not think there was any point in having the limits extended as we do not have sufficient protection boats to look after them.

I would be inclined to take the opposite view. If the bulk of the fish are within the three mile limit it would be easier for a small fleet of protection boats like the one we have to see that the foreign trawlers are kept outside the limit by the fact that they would be illegally inside our waters if they were inside a 12 mile limit.

There is one point I wish to make regarding the pollution of the Boyne. We have very considerable numbers of complaints from fishermen on the Boyne regarding pollution and Bord na Móna appear to be the worst offenders. The Parliamentary Secretary has already endeavoured to deal with this matter and I should like to conclude now by thanking him very sincerely for coming to Drogheda for discussions with the Board of Conservators, and for the manner in which he has since endeavoured to deal with the matters put before him.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I am a member of a board of conservators and I do not wear a queer hat or talk with a queer accent. I am glad Deputy Faulkner does not take the same view as his semi-colleague from Mayo.

The board of conservators in the Drogheda and Boyne districts are, in my opinion, doing a very good job. I join with Deputy Faulkner in thanking the Parliamentary Secretary for going there and getting information at firsthand about what is happening on the Boyne and in the Drogheda district generally. If there is something wrong with the elections of the boards, I am sure he will see that the matter is rectified. If the fishermen in every area took enough interest in the board [305] of conservators, they need not allow them to be completely controlled by any group.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I believe that the board of conservators as constituted in the Drogheda district is a democratic board, and I believe that all sections are represened on it. If other fishermen went to the same trouble to have proper representation on other boards, they could have the same type of boards.

Reference was made by Deputy Faulkner to pollution. He is quite correct in saying that Bord na Móna are supposed to be mainly responsible, but there are many other reasons why the Boyne is polluted. It is polluted by a number of local industries. Many of them go to the greatest trouble to see that they do not pollute the Boyne, but there are others who appear to be absolutely irresponsible and dump all sorts of queer stuff in the river. I have found extreme difficulty in getting the Fisheries Division to state what exactly was being found in the Boyne. The Board had to employ a private person to analyse it, and they found very little difficulty in proving that some of the stuff in the Boyne would kill even a Parliamentary Secretary, not to talk of salmon.

So far as Bord na Móna are concerned, there is the big difficulty about the question of employment, just the same as in any other industry, immediately the question of doing something about removing pollution arises. Bord na Móna are perhaps one of the biggest public employers in the country, and while I am as anxious as anyone else to stop pollution of the Boyne by Bord na Móna, I do not want to see a number of people thrown out of employment. I am sure that is in the minds of the Parliamentary Secretary and many other people who are interested in this matter. I am sure it should not be beyond the ingenuity of Bord na Móna to devise some scheme which would remove the silt.

I mentioned this to the Parliamentary Secretary before and I am repeating it now. The question of setting up [306] the peat silt research group for the purpose of finding out what is happening in the rivers that Bord na Móna are polluting is a joke, because everybody, even without technical knowledge, knows that the silt lies on the river beds to a depth of two or three inches and excludes oxygen and eventually water as well. It is no secret what is preventing the salmon from spawning. There should not be any difficulty on that particular point. To find out some way of combating it is a different matter and I hope the group will bend their energies to that type of research rather than finding out what is causing the trouble, because we all know what is causing the trouble.

The question of protection on those rivers was mentioned by several people. I believe that one group of people who are badly treated by the powers that be are the waterkeepers. We have the position in which waterkeepers, according to a Parliamentary answer, are being paid anything from £4 10s. to £7 10s. a week. I found from some research that many of them receive no annual holidays, although the law says they are entitled to 18 working days. I also find that they are supposed to get a day off each week but most of them work on seven days. I asked the Parlimentary Secretary to point this out to the conservators and he rightly said that it was not his job, that it was a matter for the boards.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  The Deputy is on a board.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I have done it on my own board but I am worrying about the west.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  Do not worry about the west; we will look after it.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The Fisheries Division must do something very soon about the question of rates of pay and conditions of employment of waterkeepers. They are not very popular people, generally, particularly in districts where poaching takes place, because they have to do a job of protection and if they do their job properly, after a while many people will dislike them very much. It is on record that a water-keeper was attacked and beaten up and thought he recognised the attacker and [307] took the case to court. Not alone did he not receive any compensation but eventually he was stuck with the costs of the court case, even though there was no doubt in anybody's mind about what had happened. The time has come when waterkeepers must be put on almost the same level as the Garda because they are doing a job which is comparable with the job of the Garda.

It might not be a bad idea if their rates of wages, hours of work and a pension scheme became a national affair rather than a local affair. The Drogheda board is dealing with one of the biggest areas in the country and it is therefore necessary to employ, even as a token force, a large number of men. We find that other boards controlling smaller areas get grants from the Department as big as, and sometimes bigger, than the grants we get. Because of the fact that licences can be bought in shops in Dublin or in a bank, we find that people are buying general licences which allow them to fish on the Boyne. The Drogheda board will not get one cent from that money. Dublin has built up quite a good income from the sale of licences at the expense of people on other rivers. I am not being anti-Dublin when I say it is not fair. Some other system will have to be devised by which the sale of licences will be controlled in such a way that if a person wants to use a certain area of river, the income derived from that licence, or portion of it, will find its way to the board controlling that river.

Another question is that relating to a pension scheme. On the Drogheda board, we have several elderly men who have worked excellently for a number of years. They have now reached the stage where the board feel they would like to retire them but as one member said, and I agree with him, we cannot throw them out without a job. The position at present is that we are not allowed to make provision for pensions for those people. When the Parliamentary Secretary is introducing his new Bill, he should bear this in mind. It is a point which must be considered eventually and the sooner, the better.

[308] I was interested to hear two or three Deputies, who should know better, talking about the buying of salmon in hotels. Is it not a fact that hotels are not allowed to buy salmon and that there is a very strict check on this, particularly in Dublin, which at one time was a place where salmon could be sold in nearly every hotel? At present poachers find it impossible to dispose of their catches because hotels will not buy them, certainly not the bigger hotels in the country. There may be some hotels where salmon will be bought but I do not know of them. Certainly it is not happening in our district.

Reference was made to fishing rights, which is something about which many of us are not very happy. For some extraordinary reason, for some years when the Land Commission divided a farm, they allowed the original landlord, who often did not reside in the country, to retain the fishing rights and the result is that fishing rights are held by people at present on land belonging to others. The Land Commission decided that they would change that and, possibly in consultation with the Fisheries Division, made an alteration which was that the Land Commission held on to the fishing rights. A certain anglers club, which shall be nameless, grew up and they got possession of the fishing rights all over the midlands and the eastern part of the country and they were in much the same position as the foreign landlords because they had no local connection and their only interest was in fishing with their friends on land which did not belong to them.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  It is pretty difficult to carry on an intelligent debate with the pleasantries we have heard this evening being tossed across the floor.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  It is their job to provide a House.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 19th 1962.

Last Updated: 15/09/2010 20:46:37 First Page Previous Page Page of 43 Next Page Last Page