Amendment No. 29 provides that:
“(4) This Act shall come into operation not less than 90 days after the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine publishes a detailed socio-economic analysis on the impact of this legislation and the Brexit inflicted quota cuts on the entire Irish fishing sector.
(5) The analysis to be carried out under subsection (4), shall encompass wide-ranging and meaningful consultation with all stakeholders in every fishing community.
(6) A copy of the published analysis referenced under subsection (4), shall be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and subject to a full debate, prior to this Act coming into operation.”.
There has been a lot of discussion about all these amendments that have been ruled out of order. Every amendment from Sinn Féin and the Rural Independent Group, which I represent, has been ruled out of order. We find ourselves in a very unfair situation. As I said earlier, this amendment provides for further discussion. We are in a dire situation after a shocking Brexit deal that has inflicted the most horrendous cuts on the fishing industry. To be honest, the industry is still mesmerised and shocked at the astonishing way we threw away our quota and pegged it out to the foreign fleets of the world. It looked like, and I always said it in the Dáil, Michel Barnier was doing a deal for France. He truly proved that. We should have had stronger engagement, and I pleaded for that to the previous Government many months before this Government took office. Brexit was coming towards us and all the signs were negative with regard to what the Irish fishing industry was going to lose. Up to the dying minutes I pleaded with the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, to make sure that he forced an intervention, but we see the consequences of a poor judgment and a poor call. Obviously, I congratulate Michel Barnier for cutting a deal for the French, but it is much to the demise of the Irish fishing industry.
As regards this amendment, we have to force discussion in the Dáil and at committee level about the Brexit cuts and the quota for Irish fishermen into the future. I read out some of the statements earlier and I do not wish to keep going back over what I said, but this Bill is a bad deal for Irish fishermen. It is supported by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil was seemingly opposed to almost the same deal a few years ago, but has changed its mind now while in government and is railroading ahead with it regardless of what amendments we put forward. Surely to God some of these amendments could have been better examined. The Minister said earlier that there was comprehensive consideration of our amendments in detail but he continued to throw out each amendment brought before the House. The very least we should get out of this is full debate in the future about the fishing industry in Ireland. It is at the verge of collapse. The best deal coming from the task force is decommissioning, which is shocking to say the least. It is going to deplete the fishing industry further in Ireland. All we seem to be doing is making way for foreign fleets to come to Ireland and take our fish out of our seas. That is what it comes to. That is the way it has been for the last number of decades. Nothing has changed and things have got worse.
We are in the dying minutes of discussing these amendments. I am very disappointed that the Government did not see fit to support any of our amendments even though they were meant to work with this difficult Bill. All I can say is that we would have full debate in the Dáil, as is provided for in this amendment, prior to this legislation coming into operation. There are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies from coastal communities who have not been seen here to answer for themselves. They should be here and hold themselves accountable because they will have to knock on the doors of their constituents. If they have failed, and the fishermen are telling me that they are failing, they will be run from the doors. That is the bottom line here. Many of these fishermen are now unemployed; many of them have lost their income. Many of them are going to lose their boats, their future and their livelihoods. That is what they know. That is how they grew up and educated themselves. They have been let down repeatedly by continuous governments, and this Bill is the death knell. Decommissioning and everything else is being laid out on a pathway of destruction for the Irish fishing industry.
All I can say, and I am providing for this in the amendment, is that if we do not give more time to debate this prior to this legislation coming into operation, it will be a further infliction on the fishermen. We might have a stay or reprieve in respect of this sea fisheries Bill. We might be able to go back to Europe and forge a better deal for the fishing community. It is time for Europe to understand that we will no longer be its whipping boy, which is what we have been. I have spoken to the fishermen in Castletownbere, Union Hall, Glandore and throughout west Cork over the last number of years and particularly over the last six or 12 months. In spite of visits from heads of state, nothing has happened. They have seen not one improvement. How can members of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael come here and continue to pound hardship on these people and have no solution? All I am seeking is a solution. Is anything going to happen to the bluefin tuna quota or will we have to talk about it for the next ten years? Is there a general acceptance that Europe can get any quota it wants, but Ireland cannot get the quota? What is wrong? Where is the weakness here? Do we need changes in the Department from the top to the bottom? Do we need to look at the SFPA? Where are the supports for the fishermen? They have not been there to date, and the fishermen feel it and understand it. They are losing their income.
Fishermen and fisherwomen were born, bred and reared to work their hands and work in the sea, and they have been terribly let down. It is our richest resource and we seem to be damned to destroy the fishing industry. We are attacking agriculture as best we can too, but today we are discussing fishing. It surrounds me in my constituency. I have inshore boats and pelagic fishermen. They are losing their income and they are asking me what is there for them. Decommissioning is not a way out. That is only getting rid of the problem so that maybe we can lick up to the Europeans and tell them we have done our best to let them come in and take a bigger slice of the cake. We must have further debate on this issue. We need the Taoiseach to get personally involved on this. This is what I am seeking in this amendment. A full debate prior to the legislation coming into operation must take place. It must be a detailed, not rushed, discussion on where we intend to take the fishing industry of this country and where its future lies.
Since Brexit was implemented last year, fishermen are saying no hour of work has begun between the Government, civil servants or the fish producer groups on the critical Common Fisheries Policy that is to come. In all that 12 months, no hour of work has begun on looking at the future. We are continuously locked into what we want to give away and what further difficulties we want to foist on our fishermen. Deputies come in here and are quite happy to support all this. Do they see the future? Do they see any future in the fishing industry? Is that gone and is it time to hit the agriculture industry? That is where we are going. When I knock on the doors I talk to people, and I continue to meet and talk to people. The fishing industry is on its knees and it is pleading with the Government, regardless of what is the Government of the day, to make sure it tries to turn this around. There is nothing in this Bill or in anything I see that will turn this around, other than decommissioning, decommissioning, decommissioning. That is what the task force has come up with. I am proud of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation for rejecting that task force report. It was 100% correct. Decommissioning is not the way forward. We have enough seas.
We have enough fish in Irish waters to keep thousands of people employed. Instead, we are wiped out. We need to debate that and that is what this amendment is about. It is about further debate. Some Deputies that come in to Dáil Éireann know what fishing is about. I certainly have a lot to learn. I am not a fisherman but come from the agricultural sector. In my time in the Dáil, regardless of what parties are in power, there has been little or no debate on or understanding of how we can turn things around for the Irish fishermen and fisherwomen that local rural communities are totally dependent on. We can decommission them, strike them off and make them unemployed, which is what the Government is going to do. What is going on here in this House will never be forgotten. I plead with my colleagues to accept this amendment and fully debate every detail of what is going on in the fishing industry, including the Sea-Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, the task force, the decommissioning and the quotas. We hear so much about quotas but we are getting little or no quota. All we are getting is wiped out through less quotas and fishermen are asking why. What is wrong with the political system in this country that we cannot understand the richness of the resource that we have, our seas? Is it the Department that is wrong? Does it need changing from top to bottom? What is wrong? Why is there not a focus on this? Why, when we are out in Europe negotiating, do we throw fishing to the wind and let it float its own boat?