Written Answers. - Ballycotton (Cork) Drownings.

Godfrey Timmins

Ceist:

43 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Marine if he will make a statement on the report into the Ballycotton fisheries officers drownings.

On 7 July 1990 in the course of a patrol off Ballycotton, County Cork, a launch manned by fishery officers of the Southern and South-Western Regional Fisheries Boards foundered with the loss of four lives.

On 12 November, 1990 the then Minister for the Marine appointed a marine surveyor of the Department of the Marine under section 465 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 to hold a preliminary inquiry into the shipping casualty and subsequently the District Court granted the surveyor's application under section 466 (1) of the Act, for the holding of a formal investigation into the matter.

The investigation was conducted by District Judge Michael C. Reilly and sat for a total of 17 days in the period 4-26 February, 1991 at a cost of £840,000.

The report of the formal investigation was completed on 10 July 1991. Advance copies of the report were made available to the relatives of the deceased and the Minister presented the report to the Government on 17 July 1991. The report was published and is available from the Government Publications Sales Office.
The findings of the court are set out in great detail in the report. Briefly, the court found that the patrol vessel sank by the stern after a wave broke over the after end of the vessel while the crew were in the process of hauling an illegal monofilament net. The court found that the reason for the sinking was due to the failure of the bond between the wood decking and the side shell of the vessel which allowed loose water to accumulate in the void space below deck thus allowing the water to run aft and causing the boat to founder by the stern. The court was satisfied that no outside agency had any involvement in the foundering of the launch.
All the key recommendations of the report in relation to matters of operational safety for fisheries boards' staff have been implemented, full details of which were given to the House on 24 February and 24 June last year. I can also inform the House that I authorised the appointment of a deputy manager in each of the regional fisheries boards which was specifically recommended in the report and that these appointments have now been made. The penalties for assaulting fishery officers are being increased under the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1994, thus extending to fishery officers the same protection which is afforded to members of the Garda Síochána as recommended in the Ballycotton report.