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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 29 Nov 1989

Vol. 393 No. 9

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Rod Licence Dispute.


asked the Minister for the Marine, having regard to the serious damage which has been done to the tourist industry and the divisions which have been caused within communities, the action he proposes to take to resolve the impasse in negotiations between himself and the angling clubs.


asked the Minister for the Marine the progress, if any, which has been made to resolve the rod licence dispute since his meeting on 10 November 1989; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for the Marine, in view of the imminent crisis in the tourist industry in the west of Ireland following the breakdown of negotiations in the rod licence dispute, if he will make a statement on those negotiations; in particular, if he will explain the way in which a sentence, contained in his offer, should not be construed as compulsion, namely that the holding of a share certificate will be a requirement to fish, with appropriate penalties for non-compliance; and if he will outline the steps he proposes to take to secure a settlement of this damaging dispute.


asked the Minister for the Marine if, in view of the collapse of his talks with opponents of the rod angling licence earlier this month and the urgent need to find a solution to the dispute, and in order that further serious damage is not to be caused to angling and to the tourist industry, he will consider inviting the parties involved to further talks; if he intends to take any further steps to settle the dispute; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for the Marine the steps he proposes to take to break the deadlock in the rod licence dispute.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 17, 37 and Priority Questions Nos. 3 and 6 together.

I outlined in considerable detail to the House on 25 October last the wide range of consultations I had held with the different interested groups and agencies with a view to resolving the difficulties that had arisen regarding angling licences.

Also on that occasion I set out my general perception of the problem and the objectives I had set myself. In particular, I stressed the need to bring about reconciliation between the various pro and anti-licence groups so as to heal the deep divisions which sadly are so evident in some communities.

I mentioned the need to create a mechanism which would overcome the perceived difficulties raised by the licence concept and could be capable of being implemented in a fashion which would be tolerant of local feelings and traditions. I added that I was finalising specific ideas along those lines but stressed that it would be wrong to underestimate the difficulties of getting the various parties to come to any agreement and that there would have to be give and take on all sides.

Having carefully listened to and considered the views put forward by the various groups involved, I decided that the best course of action was to introduce a completely new system of funding trout and coarse fish angling development to replace licences for trout and coarse fishing. In this regard I should mention the strong avowed commitment by all groups to support the funding of inland fisheries. The new system I propose now provides them with the opportunity to demonstrate the earnest of this commitment.

This new system, the details of which were announced generally on 10 November last, envisages trout and coarse fish angling development co-operatives being established in each of the seven fisheries regions. The membership of the co-operative will comprise holders of "share certificates" which will be issued annually. The holding of a certificate will enable the holder to fish. It will also entitle him or her to vote for representatives on the regional fisheries boards as well as for the management of the co-operative. There will be special arrangements and incentives for clubs as well as £ for £ matching for an initial period for receipts. There will be exemptions for young anglers, senior citizens and unemployed and disabled persons. The management of the co-operative will, in the main, be elected by the shareholders on a local basis and they will be given considerable discretion in managing their own affairs on the basis of good democratic and co-operative principles.

These arrangements, I am satisfied, meet the genuine grievances of all parties and are aimed at reconciling the different groups by promoting co-operation and neighbourliness — comhar na gcomharsan — on our rivers and lakes. If this concept is taken up and worked by committed anglers, it has enormous potential and could lead to a transformation of the funding of the in land fishery resource.

I have met the various angling groups at length to outline and explain my proposals. I remain confident that they can still attract all-round approval and support. The tourist sector has acknowledged my efforts as a major advance. Other groups who consider a licensing arrangement to be the best approach, while they have reservations, are nevertheless prepared in a spirit of compromise also to go along with my proposals, if they would lead to a settlement.

I have made it clear at all times that my door remains open and that I am prepared to clarify further the proposed arrangements to interested parties. That process, however, will not involve any fundamental change in the balance of my proposals which were carefully worked out after several months' deliberation and consultation and were framed in such a way as to take account of all points of view so that the various parties involved can be reconciled.

I have had a request from representatives of the anti-rod licence campaign for a further meeting and I will be arranging this as soon as possible. Deputies will appreciate that I have been fully occupied in recent days with important European Community business relating to our sea fisheries and aquaculture, which is a £150 million export industry. I have, in fact, four Council meetings within a period of less than a month and these must be given their proper priority.

I will be appealing again to the anti-licence group to give my scheme their full backing. I have made a major and generous offer and this has been acknowledged across the spectrum. The only criticisms I have received are largely to the effect that I had gone too far. But I make no apology for that. The onus now, however, lies squarely on all to reciprocate and to do so without delay so that planning for next year's tourist angling season can proceed on a proper footing in those areas where fishing was disrupted over the last year or so. Deputies will be well aware, of course, that angling has proceeded as usual over large areas of the country and that very successful coarse angling, with many visitors participating, is, in fact, going on at the moment in many localities.

I will call Deputies in the order in which their priority questions appeared on our Order Paper today.

I accept the Minister's efforts and the goodwill he has shown in trying to resolve the serious problem, as evidenced by his rather lengthy reply, but at this juncture the problem is still not resolved and we are rapidly approaching the start of the new season, in January. Will the Minister consider meeting the anglers again urgently and would he also consider suspending the licence and not issuing any new licences in January? Given time, a satisfactory solution could be arrived at.

I appreciate the Deputy's approach and, as indicated in my reply, I have received a letter from a spokesperson for the anti-rod licence group. I will be arranging a meeting as soon as I can, considering the pressures from the European Council that now exist in my Department. With regard to the request to suspend licences, I do not have the power to suspend licences. This House decided on the licence. It is on the Statute Book as a statute and I cannot suspend it without a decision in this House.

I appreciate the Minister's good intention in relation to this dispute. However, it is a month since we discussed the matter in the House and the problem is nowhere near being resolved. In his reply, the Minister basically gives a resumé of what has happened up to 10 November. In my priority question, I specifically asked the Minister to find out what progress had been made since the Minister's meeting on 10 November. Will the Minister say if any informal meetings have taken place between officials of the Department and members of the anti-rod licence group and, if there have been meetings, if there has been any change of attitude in the Department or among the anti-rod licence people? Has this matter been discussed in Cabinet? If so, what has been the outcome of such discussions? I would like to ask also if the Minister for Energy, Mr. Bobby Molloy, who has repeatedly stated that this matter will be resolved before Christmas, is speaking on behalf of the Government or in a private capacity? This matter has caused quite a lot of difficulty accross the country.

I would like to put on the record of the House my appreciation of the balanced and rational approach of Deputy Taylor-Quinn when I announced my proposals. There has been no meeting since the date mentioned by the Deputy. The letter I received was received last week and acknowledged. I indicated that when I got back from Europe I would get in touch again and I will be doing that today.

With regard to discussions in Cabinet, I am not at liberty to discuss those in the House or any place else. The Deputy also suggests that the Minister for Energy, Deputy Bobby Molloy, has been making statements. I am not aware of any such statement.

He made one on 19 July.

He has made three statements since he became Minister.

These are questions nominated for priority and interventions by Deputies, other than the Deputies who tabled the questions, are not in order.

On a point of order, may we come in later?

I will deal with the Deputy's point of order later.

I was specifically appointed to Government to deal with marine matters, and I have the full support of the Government in trying to resolve the matter.

Do I take it then that the Minister is distancing himself from the remarks made by his ministerial colleague, Deputy Molloy, in relation to this matter when he stated that it would be resolved prior to Christmas? What would the position be in the event of a member from a particular co-operative moving into the area of another co-operative? Would that angler have to contribute in the other co-operative? Would the Minister elaborate to the House exactly what the details are in relation to that aspect?

Were it not for the fact that I know of the general goodwill of Deputy Madeleine Taylor-Quinn I would be suspicious that she was trying to drive a wedge between me and my colleague in the Department of Energy.

Would the Minister answer the question first?

I know that that is far from her mind and that there is no possibility of that.

We are curious.

Order, please.

The share, once taken out, will entitle the holder of the certificate to fish anywhere in the country.

On the last occasion the Minister indicated to the House that he was confident of solving the problem. Is the Minister now saying that he cannot solve the problem without withdrawing the legislation that is already there?

What is on the Statute Book is there until it is removed by decision of the Oireachtas.

Just one final supplementary.

A very brief question, Deputy.

On Question No. 17——

I cannot entertain the Deputy. He knows the reason. Standing Orders of this House are against you, Deputy.

May I respectfully suggest, a Cheann Comhairle, that this is the greatest example of discrimination against The Workers' Party in this House? I cannot raise a supplementary on my own question, No. 17.

Please, Deputy Sherlock, I cannot entertain the Deputy's supplementary now. You are wasting precious time. However, the Standing Orders of this House lay down that supplementary questions are confined solely to the Deputies who tabled the Priority Questions, in this case, Deputies O'Sullivan and Taylor-Quinn, and none other.

The other four questions have no relevance so.

These are the Orders of this House, Deputy. If you want to change the Standing Orders of this House proceed to do so.

I am not long enough here to do that yet but I will try again shortly.

In view of the Minister's last reply, does he think it at all possible that he will be in a position to come before this House before Christmas with amending legislation to the 1987 Fisheries Act?

Asking me to do it before Christmas is a tall order. I do not think I can do that.

Bobby will be raging.