I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving us the opportunity to debate this very serious matter, which I tried to do during the week in other fora. I really appreciate this matter being bought before the Dáil.
On Friday morning last, a Castletownbere trawler, the Lours De Mers, was fishing ten miles outside of Castletownbere. At approximately 8 o'clock in the morning, a Spanish trawler three times the size of the Castletownbere fishing trawler attempted to ram the Irish vessel. Bear in mind that the Spanish trawler was three times bigger than the Irish trawler and was fishing ten miles west of Castletownbere. It was stealing Irish fish as it was two miles inside Irish seas. It was illegally fishing inside Irish seas. The Spanish boat continued not alone to fish but to attempt to ram the Irish trawler.
Before 8 o'clock, the owners of the Lours De Mers fishing boat contacted Valentia for help, expecting the normal procedure that the navy would be dispatched. I do not want to be overcritical of the navy because it might be under-resourced, which is what I have been told. These are the facts of what happened, however: number one, a Spanish fishing boat was illegally fishing in Irish waters, and number two, it was attempting to ram an Irish boat.
I was contacted at approximately 10 o'clock in the morning on the same issue. At 10:37 a.m. I found out that nobody was coming to the aid of the Irish boat. Remember, four Castletownbere fisherman were on this boat. They needed their lives to be protected.
What I cannot understand for the life of me is that if a foreign registered car went up on the footpath on O’Connell Street and attempted to kill people, it would be an international incident. This is an international incident. It was an act of piracy off our Irish coastline and nobody was willing to act on it immediately. It needed immediate action.
I contacted the Taoiseach's office at 10.37 a.m., a record of which I have on my telephone. I also, thankfully, emailed him because he is now denying any communication was made. The emails are proof in themselves, however. That was 10.56 a.m. when I emailed him. I emailed the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, at 10.56 a.m., which came back to me and said it would look into the matter. At 8 o'clock that night, it came back saying there were further investigations into the matter.
At 8 o'clock at night, however, there was still nobody out at sea to protect the west Cork Castletownbere fishermen. There was no assistance to the Irish boat for approximately ten or 12 hours that day. They desperately needed assistance. We need an independent investigation into this matter. It is the only way we can clear up how there was no protection for the Irish fisherman out at sea last Friday.