A new campaign to highlight issues affecting the Irish fishing industry in the run-up to the local and European elections has been launched in Donegal.

The #Fight4Fishing campaign was launched at a hustings in Killybegs to hear the views of Midlands/North West European election candidates.

More than 200 people attended the meeting, hosted by the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) and the Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA).

The panel included Fianna Fáil senators Lisa Chambers and Niall Blaney, incumbent MEPs Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Independent) and Chris MacManus (Sinn Féin), and Independent candidates Ciaran Mullooly and Peter Casey.

Also participating were Eurosceptics Hermann Kelly and John Waters, Michelle Smith, an accountant from Ballinrobe, Dr Brian O’Boyle of People Before Profit and James Reynolds of the Irish National Party.

There were several heated exchanges between Luke Flanagan and Senator Blaney – who had to sit in the audience due to a diary mix-up on his part.

As reported by The Irish Independent, Niall Blaney told the meeting that it was ‘important that we have people at the table that actually turn up to stand up for fishing because that has been missing the last 10 years’.

“And I will say it again, that has been missing. We have two MEPs here tonight and they blame government, blame government, blame government,” he said. He accused Luke Flanagan of not showing up for key meetings, instead sending his assistant.

Luke Flanagan had explained several minutes beforehand that the meetings of the European parliament fisheries and agriculture committees coincide, and he sends an assistant to represent him at one of them.

“You want me to be in two places at once,” he told Niall Blaney.

Several candidates related anecdotes about enjoying recreational angling, clearly misreading the room, where one fisherman was close to tears.

IFPO chief executive Aodh Ó Donnell said that attendees at the packed meeting came from all segments of the industry – the catching, processing and services sectors.

He described the meeting as a ‘major milestone in putting fishing on the Irish political agenda’.

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne told the meeting that fishing was in crisis due to government inaction and lack of fair distribution of EU quotas. He said Ireland’s interests needed to be better represented at European level.

KFO chief executive Dominic Rihan said the organisations were delighted with both the turnout and the contribution that the local fishing community made to the debate.

He urged people to support the #Fight4Fishing campaign on social media, and to ask canvassers questions about fishing on the doorstep.

More details on the #Fight4Fishing campaign are available here.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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