Irish fishery associations accuse Republic of Ireland of ‘shocking’ breach of Northern Ireland Protocol and Good Friday Agreement

The Republic’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has committed a “shocking breach” of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement, according to the southern based Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association.

By Philip Bradfield
Monday, 9th May 2022, 6:40 pm
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 8:25 pm

Two fish processing companies in the Donegal port of Killybegs have had their permits to weigh fish in their factories revoked after a Norwegian vessel landed blue whiting in Londonderry and the fish were then transported by road to Killybegs for processing on separate two occasions.

The skipper of the vessel decided against landing the fish in Killybegs, claiming the southern SFPA’s method of weighing the catch would damage it and leave it unfit for human consumption.Brendan Byrne, CEO of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association, slammed the Republic’s authorities for their handling of the matter, accusing them of using double standards in applying the protocol on either side of the border.

“They are playing fast and loose with the protocol arrangements while expecting our northern cousins to adhere totally to every aspect of the protocol,” he told the News Letter. “It is a shocking approach on their part.”

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He said the two landings were signed off on by authorities in Londonderry. He described the development as “shocking” and added that the actions of the SFPA have created a hard border with Northern Ireland.

“We now witness an Irish control authority imposing a sanction against an Irish fish processor on the basis that Derry Port is not in Ireland, that the special status for Northern Ireland which applies EU rules, regulations and rights in addition to other jurisdictional rights does not apply, because Derry is not deemed to be in Ireland,” he said.

RTÉ News reported that it had seen correspondence from the SFPA in relation to the withdrawal of the in-factory weigh permit of one company. The correspondence stated: “The SFPA remains of the view that the landing took place outside of Ireland as per the Control Plan.”

Aodh O’Donnell, CEO of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), agreed the action was shocking. “The indication by the SFPA that they cannot treat the ports of Northern Ireland as part of the Protocol arrangement is nothing short of shocking and is contrary to the Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement,” she told RTE. The News Letter invited the Irish Department of Agriculture to comment, but it directed all enquiries to the SFPA.

The SFPA confirmed that it had withdrawn two EU weighing permits from Killybegs.Weighing a catch in Killybegs after it had been landed in an NI port, it said, would only be possible if the Republic and NI drew up an agreement which was then approved by the EU.However no such agreement ever existed, and Brexit has not changed this. Irish processors can buy fish landed in NI, provided it has been weighed there; however a permit such as those withdrawn from Killybegs “does not permit weighing in one member state after landing outside of its jurisdiction,” it added.