June 20, 2022
Planned French naval exercises must be relocated away from Irish waters – John Brady TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady has expressed his concern regarding the planned French naval exercises scheduled to take place from tomorrow onwards off the south coast of Ireland, within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Wicklow TD said:

“For the second time in six months, we have a situation where a foreign naval service is scheduled to undertake naval exercises in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, with the same group of Irish fishers indicating their intent to take to the area to protest at the threat that the naval exercises pose to their livelihood.

“It is no secret that the Irish fishing industry feels betrayed by an indifferent government that has failed to properly represent their interests in Europe.

“This is the same government that has indicated to anybody who cares to listen that it is their intent to initiate a debate that they hope will result in the reversal of Ireland’s long standing position of military neutrality.

“And while political debate must always be welcomed, the continuing erosion of our nation’s sovereignty under successive Fianna Fáil, and Fine Gael governments through failure to invest in our Defence Forces has left our naval service unable to properly police Ireland maritime areas.

“Close to €2 billion worth of fish caught in Irish waters is not landed in Ireland but this state does not possess the means to carry out any meaningful type of inspection of trawlers fishing in Irish waters illegally.

“It is little wonder that Irish fishers have taken up the mantle of protecting Irish waters, as a result of the failure of the Irish government to do so. 

“Earlier this year West Cork fishers felt they had no option but to face down the Russian Navy, who cancelled plans to hold exercises off the Southern coast. 

“Now they feel that due to the failure of the government that they have no option but to adopt the same tactics in order to stop the French navy carrying out their plans to hold a similar live firing exercise in the Irish EEZ. 

“I want to join with our fishers in calling on both the French and the Irish governments to relocate the exercises outside of Ireland’s EEZ.

“Responsibility for this situation lies with three government Ministers, Simon Coveney the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, who is responsible for the safekeeping of our country’s sovereignty, Minister Charlie McConalogue, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Minister for Transport and the Environment Eamonn Ryan, whose Department of Transport issued warning notices about the exercises, but who also has Ministerial responsibilities for the climate and the Environment. 

“As with the previously planned Russian exercises, the French live firing exercises pose a threat to Marine life in the area. 

“According to local fishing representative groups, the exercises are a serious threat to the livelihoods of fishers, to the health of Ireland’s fish stocks, and to the ecosystem of our coastal waters.  

“There are also concerns that intense use of military sonar could seriously disrupt migratory paths, and the breeding season of mackerel and other species.

“I have previously raised the issue of the dangers posed by military vessels to Irish marine life. The Royal Navy are obliged to consult with environment and conservation groups before they are allowed to employ sonar for exercises in British waters, yet when they enter Irish waters they are under no such obligation.

“If only Minister Ryan could bring himself to exercise the same energy towards those who threaten our marine environment as he does with turf cutters, we might see the government acting to protect Irish interests.” 

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