Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (270)

Seán Haughey

Question:

270. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of his contacts with the UK and Scottish authorities regarding an incident in early January 2021 involving an Irish fishing vessel at Rockall; the position of the Government regarding claims in respect of a 12-mile exclusion zone around Rockall; if he has been in contact with the European Commission regarding these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2822/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government is fully aware of contact between a Scottish marine patrol vessel and an Irish fishing vessel, the Northern Celt, near Rockall earlier this month. I met with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 7 January to discuss developments in relation to Rockall.

The Government is seeking to address the issues involved, reflecting the longstanding fisheries tradition in the area around Rockall, and has been in contact with the relevant Scottish and UK authorities on the matter. The issue was raised in the context of my meeting with my Scottish counterpart, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs, Michael Russell, on 14 January 2021. We have agreed to keep in contact on the matter.

Myself and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as our respective officials, are considering all options for further engagement on the issues involved and are continuing to work closely together.

The new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021. Irish officials remain in ongoing contact with the Commission on all matters relating to the Agreement, including fisheries.

While engagement continues on the issue of Rockall, the Government have indicated that there is an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish vessels operating in the waters around Rockall. The skipper of the Northern Celt also contacted this Department and a response has issued to him, setting out the current position.

Ireland has never made any claims to Rockall, which is a small uninhabitable granite rock located approximately 160 nautical miles west of the Scottish islands of St. Kilda and some 230 nautical miles to the north-west of Donegal. Ireland has never recognised British sovereignty claims over Rockall, and accordingly has not recognised a 12 nautical mile territorial sea around it either. This remains the position of the Government.