I beg to move
That this Assembly calls upon the Minister with responsibility for Agriculture and Rural Development to implement a Tie-Up Aid package for fishermen in Northern Ireland affected by the spring closure of the Irish Sea.
I look forward to debating this issue. It is the last debate of the day, but it is nonetheless a very important one.
I am sure that we have all been reading about the 17 fishermen and boat owners from the Province who recently appeared in Liverpool Crown Court for misdeclarations of landings of fish. Members will also have read about the alleged £1·5 million that was netted by those men.
I would like to paint a very different picture. These men have watched their livelihoods being slowly torn from their grasp. They did not wish to defraud their Government but wrongly felt that they were doing no real harm. They under-declared their earnings to the taxmen by some £400,000, but, due to the incongruous rulings laid down by the EU directives, had misrepresented this on their EU forms.
I am not citing that to attempt in any way to absolve those men of anything, but I am citing the dire straits that our fishermen find themselves in — and it is important to do that.
Tha bare facts er, that because o’ tha houl bak oan white fishin, an in tryin tae bring bak tha cod stocks, an tha cloasur an no bein alood tae fish in tha Irish Sea. Tha fishermen haeny much chance o’ feedin ther femilies wi’-oot help. Its no that ther lazy, er dinae want tae adapt. But its becaus tha EU er issuin seeminly impaosible tae meet directives. Directives whuch meen that fer 10 weeks tha boats er banned fae fishin, this is 10 weeks that tha femilies o’oor trawlers hae tae pit up wi’oot a wage. Hoo caun this be richt.
Whun thes restrictions wur pit oan tha Scots: ther DARD gien theim tie-up packages tae enable theim tae survive. Sumthin whuch DARD did iver heer fer a wheen o’ yeers, an then they stapt daein it, fer they saed it wus rang an agin tha law, an it wusnae coast effective.