Dáil Éireann - Volume 158 - 28 June, 1956
Committee on Finance. - Vote 28—Fisheries (Resumed).
Mr. M.P. Murphy Mr. M.P. Murphy
Mr. M.P. Murphy: Prior to Question Time, I was referring to the matter of reserved fishery rights. Some  time ago I put a question to the responsible Minister to ascertain information as to the extent of fishery rights exclusively reserved to certain people but I was unable to obtain any information whatsoever. Apparently the Department of Fisheries in this country, and this goes for the Department of Fisheries under the various Governments, are so unmindful of this particular question that neither Government has ever troubled to ascertain the extent of these private fishery rights.
An Ceann Comhairle Patrick (Clare) Hogan
An Ceann Comhairle: Could the Minister annul these rights by an administrative Act?
Mr. M.P. Murphy Mr. M.P. Murphy
Mr. M.P. Murphy: This House is here to enact legislation and laws dealing with fisheries. The initiative in this case should come from the Minister for Agriculture.
An Ceann Comhairle Patrick (Clare) Hogan
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy may not advocate legislation on the Estimate.
Mr. M.P. Murphy Mr. M.P. Murphy
Mr. M.P. Murphy: No, Sir, but I wish to refer the Minister to this situation. There is no reference in this Estimate to these fisheries. They are completely and entirely forgotten. I have been at this question for the past five years and nothing has been done. We hear my friends Deputy Seán Collins from West Cork, and Deputy Seán Ormonde from Waterford, denouncing in forcible terms people who are guilty of poaching. Let me say that it is the duty and obligation of every member of this House to stand firmly behind the laws and enactments of the House. It would be out of place for any Deputy to stand up and condone breaches of any of our laws. I am not going to do so. At the same time I have the feeling that we have this poaching in some districts because the people do not regard it as a criminal offence, and, for the same reason, they cannot see why some Earl or Duke in England should have the exclusive fishing rights of the particular piece of river adjoining their district. The tendency is for people here to deny these rights and to trespass on their preserves even though it is a  breach of the law. I believe that certain breaches of the fishery regulations are being carried out in such a spirit. While that spirit exists, I am quite entitled to come to the Parliamentary Secretary and make representations for a reduction in any fine that may be imposed in view of the existing circumstances.
Mr. O. Flanagan Mr. O. Flanagan
Mr. O. Flanagan: May I again point out that the reduction of fines is not a function of mine? I have been asked on occasions to recommend a reduction of such fines but in no instance since my appointment to this office did I recommend a reduction in a fine to the Minister for Justice. In one particular case, I was asked to recommend a reduction by the Cork Board of Fishery Conservators and I refused to do so.
Mr. M.P. Murphy Mr. M.P. Murphy
Mr. M.P. Murphy: I have not trespassed on the Parliamentary Secretary very much in that direction. I have not been responsible for getting any fine reduced and I believe that Deputy Seán Collins is in the same position. While on this point I would direct attention to the fact that in the Cork Examiner this week we have the Cork Board of Fishery Conservators up in arms, using strong language and such terms as “Cheap-jack politicians geting these fines reduced.” This statement was made in the town of Bantry. The only inference that I could draw from that statement is that people had no trouble but to go along to some politician and get fines, imposed in West Cork for poaching, remitted. Now we find that the real people who are trying to get the fines remitted are some of the conservators themselves. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary is replying that he will touch closely on this matter of the Cork Board of Fishery Conservators who have given people to understand that there is no trouble in getting the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister for Justice to reduce fines. The Parliamentary Secretary should deal with that firmly and tell us about the number of applications the Cork Board of Fishery Conservators have made to him to have fines reduced.
Mr. O. Flanagan Mr. O. Flanagan
Mr. O. Flanagan: Only one, to my knowledge.
Mr. M.P. Murphy Mr. M.P. Murphy
 Mr. M.P. Murphy: He will find that Deputy Collins and myself have troubled him very little in that respect. As he knows, I approached him in only one case. We want to have that made clear to those people in West Cork and County Cork who have made a number of false statements in this connection. This question of fines and the Parliamentary Secretary's intervention arose out of my reference to poaching. We must remember that whatever our views on poaching may be, a number of these poachers are poaching the preserves of foreigners who hold these preserves. I do not wish unduly to take up the time of the House on this question but I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to make a detailed statement on it when replying. It is a question that seems to be evaded, and surely if this position is to be rectified the natural place to expect a start in that matter is the Fisheries Branch. It is their duty to initiate legislation which, I feel sure, could be passed easily through this House, to do away with those private rights.
I do not want to labour that point any further, but I will repeat the question I asked the Parliamentary Secretary some time ago, to give us information, if it can be made available, as to the extent of the fisheries so reserved. I hope I have indicated clearly not only my own viewpoint but the viewpoint of many people in this country from Cork to Donegal in this respect. We are long enough a Republic; we had to fight for it for more than 700 years and it is entirely out of place that, in the part of the country in which we have achieved freedom, we should still have people who do not belong to it at all owning certain parts of the country independent of the wishes of the Irish people and apparently with the connivance of successive Governments.
I am asking, as a Deputy—and I believe I represent a wide section of opinion—for the ending of that situation. I hope when the Parliamentary Secretary is introducing his Estimate next year that it will not be necessary for any Deputy to refer to this question and that the necessary legislation,  no matter how complicated it may be—and I cannot myself see any complications arising—will be enacted, that the waters of this country will be free to each and every Irishman and that each and every Irishman will have an equal opportunity to fish on them. When that equal opportunity is given and when all our waters are our own property, I believe the Parliamentary Secretary need not comment very much on the question of poaching because we have civic spirit enough not to break our own laws. As long as you have these foreigners owning these rights you are bound to be confronted with fines for poaching, and so forth!
The reason I digressed a little at the start was that along with making the position clear to the Parliamentary Secretary I availed of the presence of his senior, the Minister for Agriculture, to make him aware of this position. Prior to that I had marked my appreciation of the Parliamentary Secretary's two visits to West Cork and the fruit which they bore and I again conveyed to him my deep appreciation and that of the fishermen there for the help he is giving them. Deputy Collins has also indicated the position in that respect. We are united in our efforts and unanimous in our opinion of the Parliamentary Secretary.
We would be grateful if some more moneys could be made available through the Department of Agriculture for slips and piers. I know that the Department is troubled by such applications from all over the country but the difficulty of getting grants for these improvements is so great that you would scarcely think it worth while to apply at all. There is the preliminary work of examining the slip or pier for which representations have been made. When this has been done, we must wait for another 12 months before there is any progress. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, whenever representations are made for small improvement works for piers and slips, he should indicate within, say, six months whether that money will be granted. Many of these schemes remain undone for a number of years and if the opinion of the Parliamentary  Secretary and his advisers is that, having examined the relevant documents, a grant would not be warranted, he should tell us, so that we would know where we stand. At the present time we are just waiting in some cases for years before knowing whether the work will be approved or not.
I would like to mention briefly also the question of extending the three-mile limit. It would be advisable to do so, as many fishermen around the coast complain that their livelihood is taken from them to some extent by poachers from other countries. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is most mindful of the position and would like to help in every way possible. I understand there is at least one country in Europe which has succeeded in extending its fishery rights. In Norway, which has a huge mileage of coast, I think the limit is ten miles. I am led to believe that this matter can be discussed by representatives of the Irish Government at the International Court which is set up in the Hague. If that is the position I would like the Parliamentary Secretary, if it is possible, to put forward a proposal for extending the three-mile limit to at least six miles. If we extend the limit to six, foreigners are bound to come inside it but three miles is too close. This would be a marked advantage and would enable our fishing boats to detect these poaching trawlers which are creating such havoc in our fishing industry.
We were glad to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary of the increased catch of fish and of the increased value of that catch. The Parliamentary Secretary struck a fearful note that these improvements might result in the supply of fish exceeding the demand. Should that position obtain, naturally the price would fall, and fall considerably, and the industry would become an uneconomic one. The best way to deal with such a problem is to endeavour to get a better distribution of fish. Almost every Deputy who has spoken has adverted to that. It may be quite easy to detail plans theoretically for dealing with such a situation and it may be very difficult to put these plans into operation. At the same  time, Ireland is an island and there is no part of the country more than 60 to 70 miles from the sea. From that point of view, it should not be too difficult to evolve some scheme whereunder fish would be made available to meet the needs of the population in the inland towns and surrounding districts.
A large proportion of the fish caught in West Cork is sent to Dublin. The fishermen have to pay the transport costs from, perhaps, Castletownbere to Dublin City, a distance of more than 250 miles. We are led to believe that, having paid the cost of transport of that fish to Dublin, some of the fish may be sent down the country again from Dublin. Surely that is a nonsensical proceeding. Surely some change should be made. I cannot understand why the Parliamentary Secretary cannot do in other areas what he has done in Limerick, namely, set up in towns like Clonmel, Port Laoise, and elsewhere, distributing centres to which the fish can be sent in the first instance instead of sending it to Dublin and redistributing it from there. I am sure that within a comparatively short time the board, acting on behalf of the fishermen, would become conversant with the quantity of fish these distributing centres would require. All extra costs would, of course, have to be borne by the fishermen, but every effort should be made to do something in that direction because not only would it help the fishermen but it would provide the people living in areas remote from the sea with an opportunity of getting fresh fish daily.
The question of the transport of fish is an important matter though I admit this would be more relevant perhaps to the Department of Industry and Commerce. Fishermen are complaining that C.I.E. is not at times in a position to cater for them speedily, that there are delays in getting lorries to remove their fish from such centres as Baltimore, Schull, Castletownbere and so forth. Fish is a perishable commodity and it is advisable, from that point of view, that there should be some relaxation in the licensing laws relating to haulage. Where C.I.E. cannot transport the fish,  private lorry owners should be allowed to do so. A delay of three or four hours may render the fish unsaleable.
I appeal again to the Parliamentary Secretary to take some steps to improve the distribution of fish. I was told in Bantry that early on in the season there were huge catches of herrings in Geartries and not one penny profit did the fishermen get for their work. They were not able to obtain a market. Supplies exceeded the demand and the result was they had no return. The Parliamentary Secretary has paid two visits to West Cork. We hope to see him again. We will give him a hearty welcome. We like to see a man come into a district when we know that he will leave some impression behind him. He has done very good work in Schull and Castletownbere. Perhaps it is not out of place to invite him now to Bantry, Baltimore and some other areas. If he accepts that invitation he can rest assured that he will get a hearty welcome.
Mr. Breslin Mr. Breslin
Mr. Breslin: I would like to intervene briefly in the debate on this Vote which is, as the House knows, of the utmost importance to thousands of our inshore fishermen scattered around our rocky coasts, a class of people who, at the best of times, eke out a very precarious existence and a class of people for whom this House should have every consideration and to whom they should, at all times, be prepared to afford the protection they certainly need if they are to continue in their old way of life in that part of the Gaeltacht.
I rise chiefly to express our surprise and our resentment with the Minister for Agriculture and the Department generally at the recent action they took in revoking a bylaw that had been in existence since June, 1908, a bylaw that afforded a certain amount of protection to our inshore fishermen between Bloody Foreland Point and Dawros Point in North-West Donegal. The House will remember that last year we had a certain amount of trouble in the North-West of Donegal due to the fact that the inshore fishing grounds, that were for centuries the  preserves of the inshore fishermen there, had been entered upon by these up-to-date trawlers equipped with all the modern devices.
The local fishermen, the inshore fishermen, resented this intrustion and a breach of the peace occurred. Later on the inshore fishermen were, in the District Court, fined a sum of £50 and had to apologise for their attacks on these trawlers, trawlers which had entered their fishing grounds. We were surprised, too, that on that occasion the owners of the trawlers, which were responsible in the first instance for the breach of the peace by breaking the laws of the country and by breaking this particular bylaw, were not prosecuted. It seems strange to us that fishermen who were defending their rights, just as any body of workers would defend their rights in factory or elsewhere, should be penalised and that those who were responsible for the trouble and responsible, I might say, for the attack upon themselves, were not prosecuted. That, in my opinion, is an amazing situation in this country. Nevertheless, the inshore fishermen were, as I said, fined and had to apologise for their action on that occasion.
I intervene in this debate to express to the Minister, to the Parliamentary Secretary and to his Department our resentment and our surprise that after the inquiry that had been set up following these disturbances, he should have revoked that bylaw. We maintain that, on the evidence of the fishermen and on the very strong points put forward, the decision should have been otherwise. The position now is that the inshore fishing grounds are thrown open to these large trawlers and the result will be that in a few years the inshore fishermen as we know them now will have disappeared from that part of the country.
In the Gaeltacht and congested areas we have, as has often been pointed out in this House, very few industries. This is one industry that has been the backbone of the people there all down the years and it is a surprising thing that an Irish Minister of State, a Minister for Agriculture, should, in the year 1956, with the recent census  figures and the recent figures of depopulation in that particular area before him, revoke a bylaw that has certainly held the people there and made it possible for them to live in the congested areas and follow their old industry, the fishing industry. The revocation of this bylaw will mean more unemployment and more emigration from a part of the country that has suffered more than any other that I know of and it will mean the closing-down of scores of houses on our islands and on the mainland.
Everyone knows and the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are as well aware of this as I am, that the inshore fishermen with their smaller type of boat cannot compete with the up-to-date craft in operation in these waters to-day. As I have already said, it will eventually mean the end of inshore fishing as we know it. It is significant that, in opening the debate here to-day, the Parliamentary Secretary went to some trouble to explain just what inshore fishing means. We always felt that inshore fishing meant fishing near the shore but the Parliamentary Secretary in his opening statement wants us to imagine that inshore fishing does not mean that at all but means fishing well outside the islands and a good distance from the mainland, or a mixture of both. To our mind in the Gaeltacht, inshore fishing means the type of fishing that has been carried on by the smaller boats for many years. The fishermen resent this decision because eventually it will have a harrowing effect on the way of life of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of our people along that coast. I am expressing to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary just what they feel in regard to this recent decision.
It has often been said in that part of the country that if trawlers are allowed into inshore waters to ring herring it will eventually mean the breaking-up of the shoals and the destruction of the spawning beds and that, after two or three years of the intensive type of fishing we may expect from these trawlers, herring will abandon that part of our shore altogether.  In support of that statement it is pointed out that on various parts of the Donegal coast where this intensive trawling has been permitted, herring have completely disappeared and it is feared that in a few years the same position will have occurred between the points I have already mentioned—Bloody Foreland Point and Dawros Head in the extreme North-West. This decision will also affect Inver Bay and Donegal Bay.
I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that last year several meetings were held of the fishermen in the Donegal area to protest against this inshore fishing. I hope that, even at this late stage, something will be done to protect the way of life of these people. We are surprised that the Minister for Agriculture should come to this decision because on various occasions in this House he has expressed a completely different opinion. In introducing this Estimate on the 15th July, 1948, as reported at column 634 of the Official Report, Volume 112, the Minister for Agriculture said:—
“I will not let anyone start a big commercial trawling company based on this country because I believe it would destroy the livelihood of the inshore fishermen... It is the policy of the Department to have no trawling company in competition with the inshore fishermen.”
With that statement I agree entirely. In introducing his Estimate to-day, I think the Parliamentary Secretary said something on similar lines. It is too bad then that, if that is the policy of the Department, they should do something entirely different in that particular part of Donegal.
So far as the herring industry in North-West Donegal is concerned, the position will be that the trawlers will certainly land very big catches of herring. The inshore fishermen will come along with their 20 or 30 crans in each boat only to find that the market is glutted and that the only outlet they can have for their fish is the fishmeal factory. It is unfortunate, too, that the price in the fishmeal factory is so low that it would not be economic for the inshore fishermen to continue that type of fishing and to supply that type  of market. Last year, the trawlers landed considerable quantities of herring. It seemed that they got special priority because their fish was shipped in lorries waiting on the pier to the Dublin market. However, when the inshore fishermen came along they were informed that the only outlet for their catches would be the fishmeal factory. That is another pointer to what the smaller craft and the smaller man can expect in the years to come following this decision by the Minister. I feel the Minister should, in order to protect that part of the Gaeltacht and the people there, ensure that these larger boats are kept out of the preserves of the smaller man. Otherwise, in a few short years, the question of the inshore fishermen as we know it, will not arise in this House at all. It has been agreed on all sides of the House that every possible help should be given to that part of the country but I am very sorry to see that, at this day and age, steps are being taken to make the position more difficult there than it has ever been before.
We have often heard mention here of the Congested Districts Board and of the good work they did for the fishing industry in Donegal and elsewhere. The secretary, Mr. Micks, in writing about the fishing industry in Donegal in 1925 mentioned that the Donegal fishermen were in danger from the larger boats worked by Scotsmen. He pointed out that if these boats were permitted to continue fishing in the inshore waters, it would mean the end of that particular type of fishing in Donegal. His report stated that it was impossible for the smaller boats to compete with the fast steam drifters, over 200 of which visited Donegal at one time. “The bitter disappointment,” he goes on to say, “of Donegal fishermen at having to compete with this type of vessel is not too difficult to realise.”
I would say that the inshore fishermen to-day face similar difficulties and that the livelihood of families on that coast is in the melting-pot. It is indeed small consolation to be informed that, at the present day, trawlers are registered by the State and are allowed to fish at the very doorsteps of the inshore  fishermen. In a year or two, I take it, the Parliamentary Secretary as a result of this policy will be able to point out to us the increased landings of herring on our coast but if the increased landings of herring is brought about, as I am afraid it will be, by increased unemployment and emigration and the further depopulation of our undeveloped areas, I feel it is too high a price to pay for these increased herring exports.
Mr. T. Lynch Mr. T. Lynch
Mr. T. Lynch: There was a saying at one time that “you first catch your fish” but I do not think that is correct. Like many of the other old tags it does not work out. The whole business is to sell your fish first. If you catch your fish and have no market for it you can do nothing with it but if you have a market for the fish you will make it your business to catch it. I think, therefore, the whole industry should revolve round concentration on the development of our home market which has been totally neglected.
Several Deputies have mentioned that there should be centres in the various towns for the distribution of fish. I would again draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to something that I have been told about, a system that is worked in this country in all the country towns in regard to ice-cream. We have ice-cream cabinets in the shops in these rural towns and the ice-cream can be sent down, held there for several days, and sold there. I think if we had small cabinets in a chain of shops throughout the country they could be supplied by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara or by private enterprise with refrigerated fish for retention.
I was interested in the line of country traversed by the Parliamentary Secretary and in all the speeches made in this House on this Estimate, but I got the idea at one time that the whole of the East coast and the SouthEast coast of Ireland had eroded and that the fishing ports and fishing boats no longer existed there. It is, of course, up to each Deputy to fight his corner for his own constituency. I took some notes of what the Parliamentary Secretary said and we find that 12 boats were made available this year and  that 15 were made available last year. In my constituency, we have Dunmore and Duncannon at the estuary of the River Suir; we have Passage East, Cheekpoint, Helvic and Ardmore. Ardmore and Helvic are Gaeltacht areas and yet no provision is made to give them boats. There is no mention of a boat this year for Helvic. I have heard Deputies here asking that piers be built in various wild portions of the coast and then asking for boats to be supplied to people to fish there; others complain about piers that have been built and boats that have been supplied and say that the fish cannot be sold or that the prices are not good enough.
I want to put on record here that we have a pier at Dunmore at which anything can be anchored, either large or small trawlers. We have good shelter, good anchorage and good discharging facilities. Enormous catches were made there last year and they were dealt with. It was a Press scare that stopped this because two or three large boats were held up one evening, but no fish went astray. All the fish was sold and marketed, thanks to a good agent of Bord Iascaigh Mhara down there and thanks to private enterprise and private buyers. When you have a port such as that, it should get some recognition. Yet what do we get?
I am not opposed to any other schemes that are being carried out. Oysters are being developed in Galway Bay, something else at Ballyshannon and Letterkenny, ice for freezing plants at Castletown, Schull, Cahirciveen, Killybegs; a big fish processing station in Galway and a fishmeal factory for Killybegs. I want to remind the Parliamentary Secretary that Dunmore East is still within this State; we have not seceded. I come from a very highly-rated constituency and we pay more than our share of taxes and I think we should get a little of the handouts. Up to now we have got none. I have noticed here that the Deputies from constituencies that have got handouts, while they have expressed gratitude for them, have, like Oliver Twist, asked for more. Therefore, I feel that the Parliamentary  Secretary will not take it amiss from me if I ask for something for a start.
Many speeches are made here calling on the Government to do something or asking the Minister to do something but nobody will say definitely to the Minister what should be done. In the matter of fisheries, I think there should be a little more local initiative. I would again like to mention to the Parliamentary Secretary that in my area people have come together to put up money, to form a company to establish a fish cannery, an ice plant and fishery plant. They are prepared to put up a good deal of money and I am sure they will get reasonable assistance. That is all they ask from the Department.
As regards a market for our fish, the drive to get people to eat more fish started last year to a chorus of sneers from many people. I think the whole House should be behind this in every way—that if the Department's drive to eat more fish is proceeded with Deputies in the midland towns will do everything possible to help that drive.
I was surprised to hear Deputy Breslin complain that because they got those big trawlers in Donegal the inshore fishermen will be driven out. I wish we had a complaint like that in West Cork; I wish we got one of these big boats because we would not have any difficulty in finding navigators in any of the places I mention. The fishermen there are the type who go away and sail the seven seas but like to come back afterwards. Some of them do a bit of farming but most of them would prefer to take up fishing as a whole-time occupation. Any of them who came back with a bit of money set themselves up in the fishing industry although they had no State aid to get. Those are the people who should be helped by the State. I would ask that the present year's programme be amended so that some of these boats could be allotted to my constituency, especially to the Port of Helvic. Some people come in here and give enormous lip service to the revival of Irish. Helvic is beside Ring and yet suffers more neglect than any other port in Ireland.
 To conclude, I want to compliment the Parliamentary Secretary on the drive he has put into his Department. I know he desires to make a success of it and I know he will not take it amiss of me to bring these matters to his notice. I hope he will do something about the Port of Helvic in particular. It is in the Gaeltacht area and should be included in his programme.
Mr. P.J. Burke Mr. P.J. Burke
Mr. P.J. Burke: I just want to remind the Parliamentary Secretary that there is a place known as County Dublin. I heard great compliments being paid to him by a Deputy representing West Cork. I am sorry I cannot join in those compliments. We have harbours in North Dublin with very enterprising fishermen in them and while they have succeeded in getting their own boats, they suffer very greatly from silting sands and from lack of accommodation for their boats. Organisations like the Board of Works, the Dublin Port and Docks Board and the Dublin County Council have cleaned those harbours but I think these harbours should be the responsibility of this Department.
I rose to make a few points on the fishing industry generally, but I should like to say also that I might as well be outside the House as trying to stress the urgent necessity of improving the harbours in North County Dublin. We have Balbriggan which is becoming silted up. It is cleaned now and again by the Port and Docks Board. We have Skerries, which is too small to accommodate the boats. Then we have Loughshinny where the harbour was repaired last year by the Dublin County Council. That port is silting up very often and fishermen can come in there only at full tide. For three months of the year, the Loughshinny fishermen have to leave their homes and bring their boats four or five miles down the coast to Skerries. That is completely inconvenient for them.
I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary, as I said to his predecessor, that the sooner we make these harbours the responsibility of his Department, the sooner we will get something done for them and the sooner  we will improve the industry for those engaged in it. The harbours are in the care of different bodies and thus nothing is being done about them and the fishermen are consequently suffering. The way the fishermen in North County Dublin are treated is really a disgrace. If a coal boat comes into Skerries, the fishing boats must get out of the way because the coal boat has the priority. Discussions are taking place at the moment between the fishermen of Skerries and Loughshinny, in order to get some agreement as to which harbour should be improved. It is not my business to give a decision one way or another, although I have attended some of these meetings. In 1948, I was told by the present Minister for Agriculture that there was a lot of money available for the improvement of these harbours. Then there was a change of Government and the same thing applied to my own Party. It is the same all over now again, but nothing is being done to improve the harbours.
We have heard complaints from some Deputies that there is a danger of certain fishing grounds in Donegal being destroyed for the inshore fishermen. We have also complaints from North County Dublin that fish have become very scare in the normal fishing grounds. The ringing that has gone on there over a long number of years has eliminated a lot of the smaller fish and did not give them a chance to mature. I hope that will not continue. The only answer to that problem is that we should get larger boats and better harbours and send our fishermen further to sea so that they can improve their lot. If the inshore fisherman is not to get a return for his labour he will not carry on.
An old and hackneyed question we have often discussed here is the possibility of sending good fresh fish to our inland towns. This discussion has gone on in the Dáil since I came into it and for years before I came into it. Yet we have not made any headway or obtained the improvement in our fishing industry that would enable us to send good fish, handled in a proper way, to our inland towns. It is not necessary to say anything more on  that as so much has been said over the years.
One thing that I am rather surprised at is that the Department of Fisheries have not got a cold storage plant themselves. I know that there is a number of private cold storage plants for fish in Dublin but I feel that, if there is a slump on the market, the State should have cold storage plant to deal with the extra glut of fish, so as to be able to supply the market when fish becomes scarce. It may be said that there is a number of private plants but I am only asking the question. Such a plant, owned by the State, would be very useful along the north coast or even if it was situated in the centre of Dublin itself. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with that particular point when he is replying later on.
We heard a good deal about the canning factory some time ago and I would like to know what has happened to it. I also feel that we ought to have succeeded in improving our fishmeal industry. I do feel that what is responsible for the decline in the fishing industry is the scarcity of grants for boats. We hear of 12 boats being provided in the coming year and 15 boats being provided last year but that is not much encouragement for what is alleged to be a national industry. We will not get anywhere if we continue to handle the matter in the way we are doing at the moment. If you had the greatest wizards of all time in the Department, and I must pay tribute to the gentlemen there for the fine job they are doing, you could not get anywhere with the facilities provided at the moment.
This country is an island with abundant fisheries and yet we can make only a few hundred thousand pounds out of the fishing industry every year. Our fishing industry is being handled in a haphazard manner. A great deal more could be done if sufficient money were put into the industry to improve it.
I understand that next week there will be some national propaganda to get people to eat more fish. I wish that national propaganda all possible success but we have a long way to go  in our efforts to improve the industry. It should be possible to organise propaganda to convince our people that it is essential that they should eat fish twice a week instead of eating it reluctantly once a week, as at present. We will have to get the fish served up properly. It will have to be fresh and not presented, as it sometimes is, in a very bad condition. The result of presenting it in that condition is that the people prefer to do without it until such time as they can get it in good condition.
Talking and boasting about what we intend to do is no good. We will have to, first of all, give the example by our own efficiency in handling the matter before we can encourage our people to eat fish. We will have to give the fish to the people at a reasonable price, in good condition, and we will have to give it to them regularly. Unless we have machinery at our disposal to do that, all our efforts will be of no use.
I want to deal with a matter which I have already taken up personally with the Parliamentary Secretary. I have been told that there is a family in Howth that purchased a boat which had already been bought and sold by another fisherman. I was told that the engine of this boat was in very bad condition. The party who bought the boat in Howth allege that the engine was very bad, that they had to pay a great deal of money for it, and that the boat was then so bad and they were losing so much money on it that they had to give up making their payments. The result was that, after protracted negotiations with the Parliamentary Secretary and with the manager of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the boat was taken from these people. I must pay the Parliamentary Secretary and the board the credit that they gave every opportunity to the party concerned. I do not raise the question to attack anybody but to say that, in fairness to the people who bought that boat, if it is a fact that it was in such a bad state, they should be compensated or get some of their money back.
We have to be just to the individual if we are to carry on in an honourable way. People in this House must consider the individual as much  as we consider the community as a whole. An injustice to the individual is, in my estimation, an injustice to the community. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary should go further into this matter with his able advisers and if it is discovered that an injustice has been done, with the result that this unfortunate person loses £700, £800 or £1,000 which he can ill afford, the State should bear that loss rather than the individual. If faulty workmanship or any other such cause is responsible, these things should be taken into consideration. If the Parliamentary Secretary, having gone into this matter, feels that there is justice in the case I am making and that this fisherman has been treated unfairly, I believe this Parliament should do justice and that the Parliamentary Secretary should do all in his power to see that justice is done. If the Parliamentary Secretary has any further comment to make on this question afterwards, I would be grateful to hear it.
Another request I would make to the Parliamentary Secretary is that in the coming year he would do something about the harbour improvement. I do not know whether this Dáil intended to make the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for all the harbours but I am fed up referring to this question year in and year out since I came here and finding that I might as well be at home. No results are being achieved. I cannot blame the people I have the honour to represent if they say: “This fellow is only talking.” I do not know what is the cause but in North County Dublin the harbours to which I have referred are in a very bad way and I want something done about them.
Mr. O'Hara Mr. O'Hara
Mr. O'Hara: Like other Deputies who have spoken already, I feel that it is nothing short of a tragedy that the fishing industry has been neglected for so many years. If it got the attention it merited, I believe the fishing industry would be almost equal, if not entirely equal, to agriculture as an industry in Ireland. This industry has been neglected by successive Governments who failed to make adequate financial provision to put this industry  on a sound footing. It is one of the reasons, in my opinion, why so many people have left the rural areas, why the population has decreased so much. It is a tragic state of affairs and it will be very difficult in the time that lies ahead to pull the situation out of the fire.
I am quite prepared to concede that the present Parliamentary Secretary is enthusiastic, as his predecessor, Deputy Bartley, was in his time, but despite their best efforts, we have not got the progress we would like to have had. In my part of the country, at any rate, we do not see any extraordinary results accruing. Speaking on a problem of this kind, I hate to introduce parish pump affairs, to bring the question down to county level, but in North Mayo, a very serious position exists. In olden times, in the days of British rule, it was very easy to procure fish in my part of the country. In spite of all the talk and all the alleged effort, we find it most difficult now to procure fish.
On one occasion some years ago the Parliamentary Secretary visited Mayo in connection with the fishing industry. I have been told that he carried out inspections of piers and slips in various parts of my constituency. He promised the people then that he would do his best to relieve the plight of the fishermen. Some little effort has been made at one or two centres, for instance, at Achill and Porturlin, but that is really only nibbling at the problem. We will not put the fishing industry back on its feet by dealing with the problem in that way. If the Parliamentary Secretary had plenty of money in his Department, there is much useful work he could do, even at this late hour, but that money is not forthcoming. Many of our people for generations along the western seaboard, have engaged in this work, in this precarious existence, as Deputy Breslin put it. They were obliged to do so because their holdings were uneconomic, but they did it as a part-time job. Due to the fact that their boats were not suitable, having regard to present-day standards and requirements, and due to the neglect of piers and slips, they were forced out of the business. They  have now left and gone to England and America and the majority have no intention of ever coming back.
I want to tell the Parliamentary Secretary, as I told his predecessor, that the first essential is to get more money into this Fisheries Branch and to spend more money in the areas in which it is most needed, the areas in which the small and uneconomic holders require it as a supplement to their meagre incomes. There are some people still with us who are traditionally skilled in this work. Even these, as Deputy P.J. Burke said, are losing confidence in this House and confidence in successive Governments, because they feel they are in no way sincere about helping them. Engineers have gone down to these areas. Officials have visited the people from time to time. They have heard their grievances and, in 99 cases out of 100, nothing is ever done. It is no wonder the people are losing heart.
I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to do something to remedy the present situation, particularly the situation in Mayo, Donegal, certain parts of Galway and other counties on the west coast. It is in these areas that we have the old Gaelic-speaking people. It is from these areas in the main that the people are emigrating and flying from the land. It is difficult to solve this problem when the money is not provided. The Parliamentary Secretary should try to impress upon the Minister for Finance the necessity for making more money available in an effort to put the industry, even at this late hour, on its feet.
There is another very important aspect of the fishing industry to which sufficient consideration has not been given. I refer to the problem of marketing fish. Quite a number of people are still under the wholly erroneous impression that even at the present time one can hand out anything to the consumer. The day when that could be done has long since passed. People have become very selective and very particular about what they eat. I think that applies more in this country than it does in any other country.
 Often when one travels around the country and goes into an hotel or café and asks for a particular kind of fish, almost invariably one is told that that particular kind of fish is not available, that they have only got such-and-such. One has to put up with whatever the management cares to offer one. I have referred to the question of quality. I am strongly in favour of fish being handled as carefully as possible and marketed under the best possible conditions in order to encourage our people to eat more fish. In the past, fish was handled in a very slovenly way and, from that point of view, it is no wonder that our people have got out of the habit of eating fish and that the market is practically dead.
The home market to-day is highly competitive. Foodstuffs, hygienically packed and attractively presented, are offered to our people in ever-increasing quantities. Unfortunately, that is not true of the fish which is offered for sale. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to take steps to ensure that fish is marketed under the most hygienic conditions. He will have to devise some means, and that at no far distant date, of making fish available in towns such as Foxford, Crossmolina, Westport and Enniscrone. Enniscrone was at one time a fishing town. Now it is impossible to get fish there. It would look as if the delivery side of the business is falling down in some way.
Deputy T. Lynch suggested that there should be an agent representative of a delivery service resident in every town. I think such a system is capable of development and if An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, which was set up for the purpose of helping to market fish, would undertake that work and check on the towns which are still unable to get supplies, that would go a long way towards enlarging the potential market. We heard a good deal of talk in the course of this debate about surplus fish with no market readily available to absorb that surplus. I think it is a pity that no market is available.
Apropos of catches, the fishermen should be paid immediately for their fish. There is a good deal of protection  accorded now to people engaged in industry of one kind or another, particularly industry under the roof. There are stipulated hours but, so far as the fishermen are concerned, they have to work all hours and face all kinds of weather. Yet, when it comes to being paid for their catch, their guess is as good as anybody else's as to what they will get or whether they will be paid at all. Sometimes they may have to dump quantities of fish back into the sea.
I do not think fish should ever be returned to the sea. There are plenty of ways in which it could be utilised. It could be given free of charge to the poorer sections of our community. Remember, it is landed at quite a lot of expense and very often at the risk of life. We have thousands of poor people here in this City of Dublin who would be glad to get that fish. We have thousands of deserving cases throughout the country, such as widows with large families, trying to eke out an existence. There are thousands of people maintained at high cost to the ratepayers and the taxpayers in hospitals and sanatoria because of undernourishment and lack of food. Fish is a magnificent food, a healthy food. Yet, it is very often thrown back into the sea. There is something intrinsically wrong in such a situation. Indeed, it is wrong that Deputies should have to come in here, in 1956, and admit that that has happened. I do not think it has happened to any great extent in my own constituency; but my view is that it should not happen at all anywhere.
Deputy M.P. Murphy referred to fish being caught off West Cork and transported to Dublin. He said that in some instances that fish is sent back again to inland towns, perhaps 100 or 150 miles overland, with all the overheads and all the extra charges involved. That is a fantastic situation. I hope it does not exist in any big way in the country at the present time. I am aware that such a situation existed up to a year ago even in our part of the country. I have not heard much of it in recent times but, if it is still going on, it is time the Parliamentary Secretary took some steps to put an end to it.
 On the question of the sale of fish, I have been told that some monopolies are in operation in this country. I have been told that private individuals engage in this business and, because they are the only buyers of fish in the area, are in a position to make their own price. They take advantage of the situation. I am satisfied from information supplied to me that that has happened in certain instances. If we had anything in the nature of guaranteed markets for fish, people would be protected from such racketeers. The Parliamentary Secretary should see to it that there will be no exploitation of such people. I can well understand that, human nature being what it is, you will always find people in our community who are prepared to take advantage of any situation in order to fill their own pockets with money. However, I suggest such a situation has very detrimental effects on an industry.
I referred to the visit of the Parliamentary Secretary to our county. I should like if, instead of going to West Cork a third time—which, according to Deputy Murphy, is his intention— the Parliamentary Secretary would pay a second visit to my constituency and see what progress, if any, has been made there since his last visit. If progress has been made in my part of North Mayo, I have not seen much evidence of it. If money has been spent on the development of piers or slips there, I have not seen a lot of evidence of it or heard about it. Indeed, I have heard very little about the activities of this Department in my part of the country at all. I am now taking this opportunity on this Vote to invite the Parliamentary Secretary down again, to see the position as it exists there. I would also ask him to bring some of the benefits to my part of the country that he was in a position to bring to some other parts of the country because in our part such benefits are most needed as there has been much neglect there all down the years. From my knowledge of the country, there are very few places where there has been so much neglect as in North Mayo.
I heard Deputy Breslin speak in a critical way to-day about certain  activities of the Fisheries Branch and I must say I was surprised because I think Donegal is one county that has benefited in quite a big way from the fishing industry. Perhaps there is a lot more to be done, and I am sure there is, in Donegal. We cannot blame any Deputy for making a case for his constituency. It is eight or ten years since I first visited Killybegs and saw the activities of the fishermen there. I was proud to see that that particular town was a hive of industry. There was money in the pockets of the fishermen and of the business men and things were progressing because an industry was being built up there. I should like to see more of that type of activity in my part of the country.
Fishing activity exists only in a small way in two or three centres at the present time. Therefore, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give special consideration to North Mayo where scores of families have locked their doors and gone away to England or America. Many of their thatched cabins are now in ruins. The majority of the people of Achill migrate for the greater part of the year. It is a sea-fishing district. Due to neglect by successive Governments, the majority of the people there lost heart and went to foreign countries where they were sure of a steady income and where the hazards and the risks were not so great. I have often said before that surely the descendants of people who stood by our Irish language, by our Irish culture and, above all, by the Catholic faith for hundreds and hundreds of years are entitled to better treatment from a native Government than that which they have so far received.
Mr. O. Flanagan Mr. O. Flanagan
Mr. O. Flanagan: If the Deputy would make a similar speech at the Mayo County Council, it might be extremely helpful to us because that county council is the most difficult county council so far as slips and improvements are concerned.
Mr. O'Hara Mr. O'Hara
Mr. O'Hara: I am quite prepared to admit the truth at any time. That situation appears to exist. We do not  hear much about it at Mayo County Council meetings but I have noticed that our engineering staff in Mayo are reluctant to undertake maintenance work and to guarantee that they will undertake maintenance work, provided the Department come along and help us out in the matter of building-up or improving piers. I have seen the county engineer's and the staff's point of view but, to an extent, something like that is hampering progress. We are dealing with human beings. If the Parliamentary Secretary tells me here, in his official capacity as head of this Department, that he is not getting cooperation from the county council in this matter then I should be very glad if the Parliamentary Secretary would furnish me with specific instances of this kind.
Believe me, I can be fairly firm in my stand in matters of this kind and nobody knows that better than the county surveyor in Mayo. If the Parliamentary Secretary would bring the matter to my notice at any time when work of this nature is being held up or impeded by members of the Mayo County Council staff I should be very glad to give him any help and assistance I can. Perhaps it is a very good thing that he has mentioned it here. At least it proves that he is interested in what is happening in Mayo when he can tell a Mayoman that that lack of co-operation is there. I regret it is there. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that, if he tells me that a lot of trouble is there, I will go back to Mayo and try to give them a shaking up. Then we could come back to the Parliamentary Secretary and be glad of his assistance in that connection.
Mr. Palmer Mr. Palmer
Mr. Palmer: I was really rather disappointed when I heard Deputy Murphy state that the Parliamentary Secretary had paid a second visit to Cork——
Mr. Desmond Mr. Desmond
Mr. Desmond: Part of it only.
Mr. Palmer Mr. Palmer
Mr. Palmer: West Cork, I take it. He has paid only one visit to South Kerry. I heard Deputy O'Hara requesting him to make a second visit to Mayo, but I believe he paid his first visit to South Kerry before he paid a  visit to Mayo so that it would only be right now that South Kerry's turn would come before that of Mayo. Perhaps, too, the Parliamentary Secretary has some happy memories of his visit to my constituency. On that occasion we had great hopes of things to come because of the very important statement which he made at Cahirciveen when he was able to say that he had the authority of the Taoiseach to state that a sum of £80,000—I think it was— would be allocated for fishing boats of a large type for the Gaeltacht areas— I do not know whether it was for the Fíor-Ghaeltacht or the Gaeltacht.
That was nearly two years ago, and the Parliamentary Secretary has informed us that last year 15 boats were allocated by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara. I am not sure whether he stated these were boats of the smaller type or the larger type, but anyhow, none of them came to my constituency. I can only express the hope, therefore, that this year, when 12 boats will be allocated, we shall fare better. I know that applicants from the Fíor-Ghaeltacht are still awaiting the allocation of these 50 ft., or even 65 ft. boats. We shall expect at least two this year.
I heard Deputy Murphy refer to poaching. I remember distinctly the very emphatic pronouncement that was made by the Parliamentary Secretary when introducing his Estimate last year when he vigorously denounced poaching and said that nobody convicted of that offence would receive any help from him. I would like to remind the Parliamentary Secretary now that there are two types of poaching. There is the type where a man may get a salmon out of the river by means of a strokehaul or some other illegal instrument. I would not be so much opposed to that or I would not be so hard on anyone caught at that because anyone going along a river, seeing a salmon and being in a position to bring him out would be just lucky to get away with it. Actually I was born and reared and lived for a long time near the river banks of a very good fishing river and I do not know why it was that I never attempted to pick out a fish. Perhaps it was a kind of fear instilled into us at the time when the landlords had full control of the  fishing rights. The remarkable thing is that up to the present, in most areas of my constituency so far as I know, it is the landlords or their descendants or agents who still control river fishing and fishing in the river estuary.
I know it would require legislation to take over these fishing rights or nationalise such fishing. These fisheries could be run by the State, or the State could get full control of them and then hand them over to some private enterprise, to people who would be willing to take over the fishing rights on lease, for instance. I am afraid I am out of order, because I am speaking of things that require legislation, but I shall refer to the matter only very briefly. I am not suggesting that the Government should acquire them without compensation. The difficulty there I am sure is that it would cost an immense sum of money.
Mr. O. Flanagan Mr. O. Flanagan
Mr. O. Flanagan: Millions.
Mr. Palmer Mr. Palmer
Mr. Palmer: I hope, as time goes on, and when the financial position becomes such that we can undertake that vast enterprise the Department will eventually acquire them and place them at the disposal of the Irish people.
The other type of poaching to which I have referred is poisoning a river, a most disgusting and despicable act, because not only are the ordinary fish destroyed but the fry are also destroyed, as is the whole fishing industry in that particular river for years ahead. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that in that case he can be quite sure he will have the approval of all decent people in dealing severely with that type of poaching. It is not so prevalent now as it once was but it still takes place and the reason given, of course, is that “the foreigners own the fish and why should we not do it?” If people really only knew I would imagine that the consumption of such fish is dangerous in a sense, or it should be. Even more despicable still is poaching of salmon during the close season, or poisoning rivers during the close season, because as everyone knows in that particular period salmon are dangerous to eat.
I think that on the whole question  of fishing we must look at it from three or four viewpoints. First of all, you have to catch the fish, you have to land the fish and you have to distribute or market the fish. Perhaps I would go a little bit further and include the method of cooking the fish  so that in this country people would be more inclined to buy it and use it.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3rd 1956.
Dáil Éireann 158 Committee on Finance. Vote 28—Fisheries (Resumed).