Dáil Éireann - Volume 63 - 12 August, 1936

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Lough Foyle Fishery Rights.

Mr. Bennett (for Mr. M. Burke) asked the Minister for External Affairs if he intends to take any [2538] steps to safeguard and maintain the rights to fishing in certain parts of Lough Foyle, claimed by and hitherto enjoyed by Free State nationals.

The Vice-President (for the Minister for External Affairs): I refer the Deputy to the reply given on the 27th October, 1932, to two questions by Deputy McMenamin relating to the same matter.

As I stated in the reply referred to, two separate and distinct issues are involved in connection with Lough Foyle—(1) the claim of the lessees of the Irish Society to a several fishery in Lough Foyle, and (2) the question of jurisdiction over the waters of the Lough. In the year 1932 the Government of Saorstát Eireann put forward a proposal for a temporary administrative arrangement pending the settlement of the fishery dispute and without prejudice to the wider question of the jurisdiction of Saorstát Eireann over the waters of the Lough. The British Government made it a condition precedent to any administrative arrangement that the Government of Saorstát Eireann should agree to submit the legal issues involved in the question of the boundary between Saorstát Eireann and the United Kingdom in the Lough Foyle area to a British Commonwealth Tribunal. The Government of Saorstát Eireann declined to submit any such issue to a British Commonwealth Tribunal.

Correspondence between the two Governments continued during the years 1933 and 1934. In the year 1933 I again put forward the proposal which we made in the previous year. The British Government replied by placing a new difficulty in the way. They could not regard as acceptable any proposal for temporary administrative measures except on the basis of the de facto recognition of the claim of the Irish Society and its lessees to the several fishery during the currency of these measures. The Government of Saorstát Eireann declined to enter into any agreement purporting to deprive any member of the public of his right to challenge the claim of the Irish Society or their lessees in the courts of Saorstát Eireann. I accordingly requested the [2539] British Government not to persist in maintaining this new condition then put forward by them for the first time in a discussion which had extended over a number of years. The British Government refused, however, to withdraw this new restriction.

The matter, therefore, now stands as follows. The Government of Saorstát Eireann are still willing to make temporary administrative arrangements for the preservation of order on the waters of Lough Foyle pending the settlement of the fishery dispute and without prejudice to the general question of jurisdiction. But we decline to accept either of the conditions which the British Government seek to impose as a condition precedent to those arrangements. We decline, that is to say, either (1) to give any undertaking that we will submit the international dispute as to our jurisdiction in the Lough Foyle area to a British Commonwealth Tribunal or (2) to make any agreement with regard to the fishery dispute itself which would prejudice the issue in that dispute or which would purport to remove the legal right of any citizen of Saorstát Eireann to test the claim of the Irish Society or their lessees in the courts of this country.

Mr. MacDermot: Arising out of the Vice-President's reply, would not the difficulty about the tribunal disappear if the Government could only make up its mind to stay in or go out of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Dillon: Would it be true to say that, having undertaken to the people of Donegal in 1932 that, if elected, the Government would dispose of this difficulty in six months, the facts now are that negotiations for a settlement of this dispute, conducted by the last Government to a point very closely approximating to success, have been made a hopeless mess of by their successors in office, and that we are now in a position in which the unfortunate fishermen of Lough Foyle are going to be denied their right to earn their livelihood there through the incompetence of the negotiating Minister who took charge of this matter [2540] when the late Government went out of office?

Mr. O Ceallaigh: The Deputy's premises are entirely wrong; therefore his conclusions are equally wrong.

Mr. Dillon: May I suggest to the Vice-President that my premises are like his promises in regard to that matter?