In a Seanad debate on salmon driftnetting, I called on Minster of State Pat the Cope Gallagher to stop protecting vested interests, in order to help tourism, anglers – and the salmon:
What is happening in this debate is very simple. We are seeing a very obvious problem, which has been emerging over a period of time and which it is patently obvious has damaged the national interest, being defended by vested interests – I include political vested interests in that statement. That is healthy. It is something on which politics is often debated and I do not see anything wrong with it provided we know what it is.
The Minister of State comes from a constituency where it is imperative that he defends these interests. It is clear from his contribution that he is trying to procrastinate. Those who are pro drift netting seem to be saying they are prepared to muddy the waters and that there is not as big a problem as those of us who say there is.
The Minister of State said he is seeking a consensus and for what he terms a realistic plan. He seeks to be advised and to examine. This spells only one thing to me, it spells 9 April 2007 and the hope that the Government will get to that date by referring the problem here, there and everywhere. It will pretend to be tackling the problem, and to look after the vested interests in County Donegal and the western seaboard and keep everyone happy. It will also pretend to the rest of the country that it is not as big a problem as it is. It will hand it over to someone else while it goes into the next general election having fooled everybody.
This is a serious national problem and it is not good enough for the Minister of State to obfuscate with soft and sweet words of reassurance of the kind he use in his contribution this evening. Both he and I know there will be hundreds of people picketing the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis this weekend about this problem. Are we complaining about something which does not exist or is it a realistic problem? It is a problem which affects the tourist industry, anglers and anybody peripheral to those interests. It is doing the country immense damage abroad.
The Minister of State stated he could paper the walls with the number of e-mails he has received, many of which are from abroad. This suggests a form of xenophobia. There is nothing wrong with e-mails from abroad because the country depends upon e-mails and communication from abroad and upon tourism, mobility and public opinion from abroad.
The Minister of State will be aware that many of these communications come from Europe. In terms of drift netting Ireland has the worst reputation and is the worst performer within the European Community. I am mortified to hear the Minister of State is on the receiving end of so much flak even though I am also delighted. It shows that Ireland’s image is worse than I thought…
I refer to the issue of the buyout which Senator O’Toole so eloquently addressed as did the Minister of State. There is nothing wrong with a buyout of this sort, particularly if it is voluntary. I have contacts within the angling industry, the tourism industry and the hotel industry and they are prepared to pay their share of the buyout. It should not be argued this will be a drain on the taxpayer.
The Minister of State will be aware that the hotel industry, the anglers and others are also prepared, ready and willing to pay their share of the buyout because it is in their interests and it is only fair this should be part of it.