Ireland PM Varadkar BACKTRACKS on fishing row that saw British ships seized

Mr Varadkar told LMFM Radio the legislation that led to the Northern Irish owners of the two boats being hauled in front of a judge and later released without charge had been stuck in the upper house of Parliament, of which he has no control. He said: “I think we can have that law changed and that anomaly, if you like, corrected, and we can do that in the next couple of weeks.” Until 2016, an informal deal had granted fishing boats from both sides of the Irish border reciprocal access to each other’s inshore waters. The ‘Voisinage agreement’ collapsed in 2016 after Dublin’s Supreme Court ruled that it had not been incorporated properly into Irish law.

The decision means Northern Irish vessels are currently banned from fishing inside the Republic of Ireland’s territorial waters.

However the UK did not suspend the deal on its side and boats from the Republic are still able to fish north of the border.

The collapse of the agreement has reportedly affected some 20 boats registered in Northern Ireland which would have traditionally fished in the sheltered waters of Dundalk Bay.

The two small vessels, The Amity and The Boy Joseph, were fishing for crabs, lobsters and whelks when they were stopped.

Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed told RTE radio the incident had “zero to do with Brexit”, despite DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds raging the situation was “outrageous” before accusing the Irish government of using it as a “bargaining chip on Brexit”.

However Mr Varadkar did link the incident to Britain’s departure fro the EU.

There is a dispute with Britain’s post-Brexit plans for its fisheries and whether or not these it will stay party to the London Fisheries Convention, which governs fishing rights in coastal waters off Western Europe.

He said: “Obviously it would be useful to know from the United Kingdom side that they are not going to pull out of that London Convention.

“It would be unusual to change our law only to find out that the situation on the other side changed.”

DUP MP Jim Shannon said he was “appalled” by Dublin’s actions in a speech to the House of Commons on Thursday, when the situation occurred.

He said: ”The fishing boats are very clearly British fishing boats. They were illegally seized in waters that are disputed, waters that belong to this great nation, this British nation.”

Conservative MP Iain Duncan-Smith said the seizure had happened “without a huge amount of justification”.

The BBC reports the men on board, who have not been identified, were released and did not even face a fine after appearing in a hearing before magistrates.


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