Ar dtús, is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadóirí a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht seo ar an mBille maidir le feabhsú agus forbairt na hiascaireachta intíre. Thosaigh an Seanadóir Ó Foighil sa díospóireacht ag caint ar na deacrachtaí atá ann, go mórmhór in iarthar na tíre, mar gheall ar an Acht a cuireadh ar leabhar, mar a déarfá, i 1987. Aontaím leis an Seanadóir go bhfuil tábhacht faoi leith ag baint leis an iascaireacht san iarthar agus go raibh sé sin fíor annalód freisin, go háirithe ó thaobh an bhradáin de, mar a dúirt sé. Luaigh sé an bradán feasa agus Fionn Mac Cumhaill, sórt naoimh ab ea Fionn Mac Cumhaill, ó mo thaobhsa de, mar bhí mé ag guí chuig Fionn Mac Cumhaill a fhad agus a bhí an choimhlint agus an t-aighneas seo ar siúl. Ach tá súil agam gur thug sé cúnamh dom mar thug duine éigin cúnamh dom, ar aon chaoi. Chuir sé béim freisin ar an tábhacht a bhí leis an iascaireacht ó thaobh na turasóireachta de agus dúirt sé go raibh cuid mhór daoine ar brath ar an iascaireacht maidir leis an turasóireacht. Is féidir liomsa a admháil, agus tá sé seo ráite agam cheana féin, nach bhfuil aon rud eile againne i mo chontae féin agus i gcontae Mhuineacháin ach an iascaireacht, garbhiascaireacht, chun na turasóirí a mhealladh isteach.
Luaigh an Seanadóir feirmeoireacht éisc agus dúirt sé go raibh daoine anois mar iarrthóirí sa toghchán ag cur in aghaidh na feirmeoireachta éisc. Aontaím leis gur tionscal tábhachtach é, go mbíonn poist le fáil ag daoine ón fheirmeoireacht éisc in áiteanna iargúlta, áiteanna nach mbeadh aon tionscal eile bunaithe iontu. Dá bhrí sin tá mise go diongbháilte ar son an tionscail sin agus tá tacaíocht an Rialtais taobh thiar den tionscal sin. Dúirt an Seanadóir freisin go raibh sé féin agus daoine eile san iarthar ag iarraidh an polasaí sin a neodrú, ach chuir sé iontas orm nár ghlac an Seanadóir leis an mBille seo. Dúirt sé go raibh sé i bhfábhar na fealsúnachta a bhí taobh thiar de ach nach raibh sé sásta leis an gcruth a bhí ar na comharchumainn, go háirithe sa Bhille seo. Bhí sé ag caint ar an Phluincéadach, bunaitheoir an chomharchumannachais sa tír seo. Ní raibh sé ina aonar. Caithfidh mé a rá leis, agus leis an Seanad, go raibh Cabhánach ansin, Tom Finlay, a bhí chomh tábhachtach le Horace Plunkett agus gur ó Tom Finlay agus a leithéid a fuaireamar ár bhfealsúnacht i leith an chomharchumannachais. B'iontach ar fad an dul amú a bhí ar an Seanadóir nuair a dúirt sé gur tugadh cuireadh dó ón Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha dul go dtí Lesotho chun comharchumann a bhunú ansin. Dúirt an Roinn leis freisin, a deir sé, gurbh é an rí áitiúil a dhéanfadh na rialacha. Anois, nuair nach féidir leis an Seanadóir Ó Foighil idirdhealú a dhéanamh idir rí nach raibh freagrach d'éinne, agus Bille ón Oireachtas, Bille a múnlaíodh ag an hionadaithe a toghadh go daonlathach don Dáil go díreach agus go hindíreach don Seanad, ní dóigh liom go bhfuil tuiscint cheart aige ar an chomharchumannachas ar chor ar bith. Comhoibriú, síocháin, forbairt, sin an chiall atá le comharchumannachas. Leas na hiascaireachta atá i gceist anseo, leas na turasóireachta, mar a dúradh i rith na díospóireachta, agus leas na tíre, agus níl mise anseo le haon rud a dhéanamh ach an scéim a mholadh agus a chur tríd an Seanad agus tríd an Oireachtas.
Maidir leis na daoine a luaigh an Seanadóir Ó Foighil, na daoine a bheidh agamsa ar an gcoiste nuair atáimid ag cur túis leis an chomharchumann, ní bheidh siadsan, na trustees, ann ach fad is atá bunsraith an chomharchumannachais á leagan síos againn. Níl mé ach ag cur túis leis an obair agus ní dóigh liom gur thuig an Seanadóir é sin. Beidh coiste ann, coiste daonlathach chun cúrsaí an chomharchumainn a rialú. Chuir an Seanadóir béim freisin ar bhrabach. Anois, caithfidh mise, a Chathaoirligh, a chur in iúl dó go bhfuil brabach ann nach brabach airgid é, rud a thuig an Pluincéadach, AE agus Tom Finlay. De réir dealraimh ní thuigeann an Seanadóir é sin agus, mura dtuigeann, deirim arís nach bhfuil tuiscint cheart aige ar fhealsúnacht an chomharchumannachais, agus, go háirithe sa chás seo, go bhfuil brabach ann nach brabach airgid é.
Luaigh sé freisin nach mbeadh ach beirt ar an gcoiste á ainmniú agamsa. Tá, agus tá geallúint tugtha agam airgead an phobail a chur ar fáil do na comharchumainn. Tá an cead agam, mar a dúirt an Seanadóir McGowan, nó ba chóir go mbeadh sé mar dhualgas orm, féachaint chuige go mbeadh an coiste sin ábalta an t-airgead a chaitheamh mar is cóir, mar is airgead an phobail atá i gceist. Mar a dúirt mé cheana féin, ní bheidh na trustees ann ach an fad a bheidh an comharchumann á bhunú. Luaigh an Seanadóir dlúth agus inneach. Deirimse leis, mar atá ráite agam cheana féin, dlúth agus inneach comharchumainn, comhoibriú forbairt agus neamhspleáchas, agus tá dlúth agus inneach sa Bhille seo, mar tá an comhoibriú, an fhorbairt, an neamhspleáchas i gceist, agus tá mé mortasach as sin. Ní dóigh liom gur chóir bheith ag cur béime ar £12 don teastas. Chosnódh cúpla pionta an méid sin airgid an lá atá inniu ann.
Senator McGowan referred to a nasty and costly situation that had developed. I do not want to emphasise that. I know that tapes and copies of documents were sent to Europe and that they did untold damage to the tourism industry. I was Minister for Tourism at that time and I am carrying the traumata. I agree totally with Senator McGowan when he complimented my predecessor, Minister Brendan Daly. The Senator was right when he said that no Minister should have been subjected to the personal abuse that Minister Daly was at that time.
The measure of agreement was welcomed by Senator McGowan. I do not want to say anything in this House, nor do I want anyone else to say anything in this House, that would start up the virulent antipathies that existed over a couple of years. I was shocked when I read through that file. There is a dark side to our character which surfaces on occasion and it is best to try to develop peaceful means and to keep that dark side firmly suppressed.
Senator McGowan mentioned — and I have already mentioned it — that £50 million of Government money has been spent on the development of inland fishieries. In that context Senator McGowan emphasised how important it was to have ground rules for development. He gave some instances of the Foyle and difficulties that exist there because in some instances there may be lack of specific rules. He hoped that the rules would see to it that no bullyboys could exercise any restraint on people in the development of inland fisheries.
The Senator also made another very important point, one that all of us who come up against the annual reports of semi-State bodies and other bodies that have to report to the Oireachtas are familiar with. It is that it is important that up to date audited accounts are presented and presented in time. I took note of that suggestion by Senator McGowan. He indicated that the State had spent the £50 million and that it also has continuing costs with regard to pollution control and that he regarded complaints about the amount of the contribution as frivolous.
Senator McGowan said he would not be surprised if we had opposition from vested interests. I must say, taking it all in all, received a positive response from people involved. I have had very little serious criticism or serious opposition.
Senator Staunton, having gone through the Act of 1987, which he called a fiasco, in particular having spoken about the disastrous effects that the dispute had on towns such as Ballinrobe, in restaurants and hotels, the gillies, boatmen, etc., complained about the length of time it took to bring it to this stage. It was a long haul, but it was not time that was wasted, because during that time the most careful and the most punctillious consultation of interests right across the board took place. I personally met people week after week, day after day, in order to reach a quintessential agreement on some Bill to help the development of inland fisheries.
I reject Senator Staunton's suggestion that there was gross mismanagement with regard to the original Bill or the development and evolution of this Bill. He said no private company could escape liquidation if they took that long. I think that if some private companies took as much care about it as we did they would not run into trouble. The Senator said he had a philosophical problem with regard to the structures. He said that people who fished wanted to go on a lake and did not want to be hidebound by organisations or belonging to organisations and so on. I admit that there is great appeal in that idyllic dream of the lake, peace and solitude and so on, but the fisherman needs an occasional bite, just to wake him up out that dream and if he does not get the occasional bite he will not be back on the lake so that the can somnolently cast the fly into the water. If there is no development, there will be no bite; and that is precisely what we are about. We are trying to bring about a situation of development where there will be plenty of brown trout and salmon taking the bait on the lakes and rivers of Ireland, not to mention the down market coarse fishing in my part of the country as well.
The Senator mentioned the EC Structural Funds. He indicated generally that he was dissatisfied with the deployment of regional funds, particularly with regard to the west. With regard to EC funds, there is scope for the use of funds in fishery development. The position at the moment is that the European Structural Funds, as laid down by the Commission, are made available only for the development of tourist angling. The money has to be specifically geared to tourist angling, not for the development of angling facilities or inland fisheries in general. A total of £1.2 million, a substantial sum, has been made available for angling tourism as part of the operational programme for tourism. This is being administered by Bord Fáilte. I would like to be administering it myself. Anytime I would get £1.2 million from anybody I would feel myself in a position to administer. Of this, £550,000 has been allocated to date — £196,000 to the western board for 17 projects and £338,000 to the Shannon board for 15 projects.
Senator Staunton also mentioned that the period of five years between decisions for the requirement of a share certificate for fishing was too long a period before you could rescind it. Originally I had in the Bill a facility to have another vote within the quinquennium if they so thought necessary. The various angling associations persuaded me to leave it out as they claimed it would be an unnecessary complication.
In regard to people "ordinarily resident in Ireland," the Senator wanted to have "citizens of Ireland" instead. My big problem there was to defeat partitionism because there was an attempt made to have the membership confined to the Twenty six counties of the Republic of Ireland. I deliberately chose the words that are in the Bill to cover the rest of my native province of Ulster, of which I am very proud.
I was delighted to discover that Senator Dardis was an angler himself. He spoke with a knowledge that comes from being accustomed to the lakes. He welcomed the legislation and indicated that there was still — now, this is true and it is something that worries me, and all public representatives, whether in the Seanad or the Dáil, and anyone of influence in the area should address himself to this problem — some bitterness in some of the areas where the dispute was at its sharpest. He referred to an employee of the Western Fisheries Board who was refused admission to a competition. I decry that also, and all Members of this House who are interested should use their influence to the maximum to ensure that co-operation and peace and unity for the purpose of development prevail where this bitterness exists.
Senator Dardis took us on a sad Cook's tour of Ennell, Sheelin and on to Corrib — difficulties in Ennel and Sheelin connected with pollution. He shocked me — I think I know the individual concerned — by indicating that someone had said he would solve the problem by filling in the whole of Lough Sheelin with slurry and making dry land out of it. I am glad to agree totally with Senator Dardis that there is no economic justification whatsoever for that kind of thinking in our society. It is a source of great pride to me that Lough Sheelin is being rehabilitated, that the waters are clear and that there are sizeable fish coming from it. The scientists have indicated that there is only 25 per cent of the stock of fish that should be there. But the fish being caught are substantial in size, which means that some of them were able to develop the rat wit to survive under three of four inches of slurry for a number of years. That teaches us something about the strength of nature when up against it. We could not say that they would survive forever, but a trout that was pulled out at 13 lbs. in weight must have been around when the food on the surface of the lake was not so good.
Senator Dardis mentioned pollution in connection with Ennell and Sheelin, the dispute in connection with Lough Corrib and problems of roach and pike. I did not know anything about a report of lice on brown trout in Lough Corrib. I hope he is right in saying that it was one particular incident or that the person may have been mistaken. There is a serious problem, as this House is aware, with regard to sea trout in the west.
I am glad to endorse what Senator Dardis said about the clubs. He said that the voluntary effort of clubs should be appreciated. I spent a great deal of time during those months of negotiation and discussion and listening to what people had to say to try to reach some kind of decision where the efforts of clubs could be appreciated in the most realistic fashion. I have incorporated that in this legislation. I know it will be appreciated by the clubs and has been generally acceptable to them where they do work for the benefit and improvement of fishery facilities in their particular area.
With regard to the problem of sea trout, I have already part-funded research into this problem. Scientists are not able to come to a conclusion as of now. Perhaps I had a deeper and a more touching belief in science before I went into this Department than I have now. I know the scientists are carrying out very urgent and very important research but there are whole vast areas, even at European level, where fish scientists have not yet reached the preliminary stage in their own particular areas of science. The research that is being carried out at present and is being part-funded by my Department into the cause of the decline of sea trout is very important. These weeks we are taking a very important initiative with regard to sea trout on their way to the sea. We are catching them and holding them to make sure — the scientists think it might be the last year — that we have stock and in the meantime continue the research into the fairly serious cause of the decline. There have been seminars, inputs from scientists and indications that there have been drops of 30 per cent or 40 per cent in numbers in areas which have no problem with regard to any other kind of development, such as aquaculture.
Sustainable jobs are important and are there by way of tourism and also by way of aquaculture, which was mentioned by an Seanadóir Ó Foighil. In regard to poaching, I am not very au fait with poaching, I am glad to say, but our officers will be taking action, as they did in the area the Senator also mentioned in my own area where people were coming down from the Six Counties to poach.
The Senator said he was unclear about where the boards and the co-ops interface. I stated in my initial speech exactly what the role of the boards is and they know well what their role is because it is incorporated in legislation. There is no change whatsoever in their role in fishery development. When called upon, under the new legislation circumstances, by the board of the co-op they can take some action, but that is only in addition to their clearly defined role in the legislation in regard to fishery development.
A question was raised about private water keepers. I will come back to that later. Private water keepers are water keepers appointed by a private citizen to do the work of protecting rivers. They are not officially recognised in this Bill.