Sinn Féin spokesperson on fisheries Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has raised the need for specific income and social protection supports to be examined for Ireland’s fishing community by the Department of Social Protection and Employment.
‘We need to do something radically different when it comes to social protection and Ireland’s fishers. I encouraged the Minister to commission a piece of work on how we treat fishers when it comes to income and social protection supports, and to include fishers in this piece of work,’ he said, speaking on the Social Welfare Bill in the Dáil.
‘The uniqueness of the work of Irish fishers and their vital importance to the Irish economy and food chain has to be recognised when administering social protection payments. This Covid-19 crisis has exposed the deficiencies in the current social protection system and how it treats Ireland’s fishers.’
He said that in March, export markets were all but wiped out, and there was no domestic market to replace it – leaving the fishing community scrambling to find income.
‘The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was opened up to the fishing community but it didn’t recognise the uniqueness of the nature of fishing, which is dependent on weather, conditions, time of year and availability of fish stock,’ Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said.
‘Fishers couldn’t access temporary wage subsidy supports because most are on self-employed contracts. They couldn’t access working capital loans as there was existing debt with financial institutions and they were locked out of restart grants from local authorities because they do not pay rates. The tie-up scheme from Europe to cover weather events was totally inadequate and ill-thought out. It was too little, too late.’
With the increasing threat of a no-deal Brexit, he directed his appeal to the Minister to come up with something very different.
‘The Irish fishing community is in serious trouble and needs support. We need new thinking for Irish fishers and I am asking the Departments of Social Protection and Agriculture and Marine to put together an urgent task force involving fishing representatives to look at introducing targeted specific measures that the fishing community.’