North/South Ministerial Council: Agriculture

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:30 pm on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP 12:30 pm, 22nd November 2016

I thank the Member for his question. I did not quite catch the last part of it, but the Supreme Court ruling in the Republic in the last few weeks that upheld the appeal came as something of a surprise. I have spoken to the Minister responsible — Michael Creed — on a number of occasions in the last two weeks to determine what will be done to correct that.

The Member will be aware that it is based on the Voisinage Agreement, which dates back to 1964. That was a written agreement between officials with regards to fishermen from the Irish Republic fishing in Northern Ireland waters and Northern Ireland fishermen being able to fish in waters around the Irish Republic to a six-mile limit. It has been in standing for a long time. Obviously, it is recognised in the European Union as a long-standing agreement. It is quite lucrative for our fishermen; not being able to fish in those waters could cost them somewhere in the region of £300,000. It is of concern to me. My understanding is that Minister Creed is currently getting legislation drafted — it needs to be underpinned by legislation in the Oireachtas — and he is hopeful that it will make its way through the various procedures early in the new year. I am keeping in regular contact with him in that regard. Obviously, I hope that that will correct the issue. In addition, I have spoken to George Eustice, the Minister of State in DEFRA, on the further implications that that will have.