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Fishermen seek ‘vigorous’ inquiry into sinking

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

LORNA SIGGINS, Marine Correspondent

THE ERRIS Inshore Fishermen’s Association has said that the circumstances of last week’s sinking of a shellfish vessel in Broadhaven Bay should be “vigorously investigated” by the Garda.

In its first public response since the sinking of the 12-metre Iona Isle off Erris Head in the early hours of last Thursday, the association representing the north Mayo inshore fleet has described it as a “sinister turn of events in the ongoing saga that is the Corrib gas project”.

“It is a turn of events that we of the EIFA deplore, cannot condone in any way and could very well do without,” the statement says. The incident “should propel those in authority to take charge of the project, have it develop in accordance with the reasonable wishes of its stakeholders, good planning practices, and above all in compliance with effective environmental and health procedures,” the statement says. “It is not for us to apportion blame, point the finger in any one direction or pass judgement on who is, or was, responsible for this drastic act,” it says.

“Suffice it to say that it is not acceptable to us that a vessel has been sunk; that its owner, a member of our organisation, is at a considerable loss and that two lives have been recklessly endangered,” the statement adds.

“The circumstances of this crime should be vigorously investigated by an Garda Síochána and its perpetrators, whomsoever they may be, brought to justice,” the statement, signed by chairman Éamon Ó Duibhir, secretary Eamon Dixon and treasurer Melvin Tighe, says.

The Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association has signed up to an agreement with Shell EP Ireland to facilitate laying of the Corrib gas offshore pipeline. The agreement includes a clause that Shell will ensure that no produced water should be discharged from the outfall pipe at Glengad.

Pat O’Donnell, skipper of the Iona Isle and a Shell to Sea campaigner, still has concerns about the impact of the refinery discharge pipe on the marine environment and declined to be party to the deal. The contract involves compensation of €30,000 for temporary loss of livelihood for fishermen who would normally be active in the pipeline corridor.

Under current legislation, he cannot be forced to leave the association, but was arrested twice last year. His solicitors have stated that he was released on the second occasion from Belmullet Garda station “two minutes before his lawyers were due to present papers to the High Court for an inquiry into his arrest under Article 42.4.2 of the Constitution of Ireland. Subsequently the DPP directed that no charges be brought against him by the State arising from the circumstances of his arrest (or otherwise)”.

Chief Supt Tony McNamara said an investigation into the sinking was proceeding.

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