Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

If you have the power to hit people over the head
whenever you want, you
don’t have to trouble yourself
too much figuring out what they
think is going on, and therefore,
generally speaking, you don’t,”
says the anthropologist David

From Voisinage, Rockall to
Penalty Points (among others),
anyone looking in from the
outside would likely conclude,
in line with Graeber’s argument,
that “the power to hit people over
the head whenever you want” is
a core feature of how the Irish
Government approaches and
manages Irish fishermen and

Though the effects of
Voisinage remain uncertain,
and, aside from Iceland
reminding everyone that it
has an outstanding claim not
to the rock, but to the waters
surrounding it, Rockall appears,
for now, to once again have
become a “dead letter” insofar as
any commentary on the matter
from the Irish Government is
concerned, there appears no let
up to the challenges in sight for
the Irish fishing industry.

This month, fishing
representatives expressed
extreme frustration with the
Minister’s latest proposal on a
penalty points system for Irish fishermen and have said they
are “appalled” by the Minister’s
proposal which, they say, once
again allows little recourse to
appeal for fishermen and would
mean that points remain on a
licence even if a fisherman is
found to be innocent.

Latest SI

During a Cabinet meeting on
July 4th, Minister for Agriculture
Food and the Marine, Michael
Creed, announced an intention to
table a statutory instrument (SI)
on penalty points for fishermen,
for serious breaches of EU
fisheries legislation, highlighting
that €6million in EU funding
for the Irish fishing sector has
been suspended by the European
Commission due to a failure
to put a system in place. The
Minister also stated that the
Commission had given notice of
an intention to take infringement
proceedings against Ireland for
the same reason.

Fishing representatives and
Opposition parties, however,
have highlighted that, to date, all
efforts by the Government to
introduce a penalty points system
for fishermen have failed on
account of the manner in which
the Government has attempted to
devise the system.

The Government’s earlier penalty points system was
successfully challenged by
fishermen in the Courts – where
the system was found to be
unconstitutional and out of line
with fair procedure. On account
of a lack of provision for appeal
to the Courts, a third SI was
annulled by the Oireachtas last
year and was the first SI in the
history of the State to fall in such
a vote.

In response to the Minister’s
latest announcement, Fianna
Fáil TD, Pat the Cope Gallagher,
who had put forward alternative
legislation last year, expressed
surprise at the Minister’s plans
to table an SI, without having
consulted with the Opposition.

Fishing industry
representatives who met with
the Minister following his
announcement, expressed deep
anger at the Minister’s latest
proposal and handling of the
entire penalty points system
issue, describing the meeting
with the Minister as ‘shocking’.
Indicating the Minister
signified an intention to
take some, but not all
recommendations raised last
year by Opposition parties, in
the formulation of the latest SI,
representatives have highlighted
that they are not against the
introduction of a penalty point
system in principle.

However, they have said
they will not accept a system
whereby no appeal to a higher
court can be made, the Sea
Fisheries Protection Authority
(SFPA) is administratively
connected to the internal appeals
processes and points remain on a
fisherman’s licence even if he or
she have been exonerated from
committing an offence.

Speaking with the Skipper, the
IFPO’s Mr Francis O’Donnell
said: “It’s so frustrating that we
are back here after four years. The
Irish fishing industry has no issue
with penalty points. We have a
major issue with how Ireland is
trying to implement them.

“We are again faced with a
system whereby a vessel owner
has no ability to appeal the
decision to apply the points other
than on a point of law to the
High Court, the internal appeals
process is still handled by the
SFPA and, most of all, if a court
finds the vessel or skipper totally
innocent of having committed
any fisheries infringement the
vessel and skipper still has the
points assigned.

“It’s actually hard to believe
that Ireland wants to place itself
above the courts and that, as
citizens, Irish fishermen have
continually been challenged with
this issue.”

“I have said it before and
I will say it again, why would
anyone want to penalise a
citizen who has not committed a

Stressing their readiness to
challenge any system that does
not provide fishermen recourse
to an appeal and whereby points
remain on a licence even if
someone has been cleared of any
offence, Mr O’Donnell said, “I
can speak for all of the Producer
Organisations, non-affiliated
vessels, persons and categories
when I say that we will fight this
on every front.

“There is no place in Irish
society where legislation is
designed to punish people that
have done nothing wrong. We
simply won’t stand for this.”

Other Options

Though the Minister and
Department have insisted that,
under EU rules, the Government
must implement a penalty point
system for Irish fishermen,
fishing representatives have
emphasised that the manner in
which it has attempted to do so,
thus far, is not the only option
available to the Government.

Mr Hugo Boyle, CEO of
the Irish South and East Fish Producer’s Organisation has
highlighted the UK, which
has a similar legal system to
Ireland and thus faces similar
challenges in interpreting and
implementing rules coming
from Europe, operates a penalty
point system which, though
imperfect, contains elements
that could be used as a template
for a more reasonable system in

For instance, relating
to jurisdiction, the UK’s
2013 Guidance for the
application of a points system
for serious infringements states:

“The relevant fisheries
administration shall be
responsible for the determination
and application of points in
respect of serious infringements
committed by or in relation to
a relevant fishing boat arising
as a result of a conviction and
sentence in a criminal court in
their jurisdiction”.

In relation to the application
of points it states:

“The relevant fisheries
administration will only
consider an infringement
committed by or in respect of
a relevant fishing boat to be a
serious infringement if criminal
proceedings have been brought
in respect of the infringement,
and the natural or legal persons
responsible for the infringement
have been convicted of an
offence arising from such an

And further states:

“Infringements which are not
themselves determined to be a
serious infringement, but are
subject of criminal proceedings
as offences linked to another
serious infringement detected at
the same time, will not attract

Perhaps most crucially, and
in line with the manner in
which most justice systems
work, under the UK system
points are not applied until

“Points will be applied
from the date on which the
serious infringement(s) was/
were committed and shall be
applied to the licence following
conviction for the offence.”

Since the Minister’s
announcement, fishing
organisations have over the
past weeks been working with
Opposition parties and it is
understood that “progress” is
being made with the Minister
on the issue. At the time of
going to print, the Minister has
yet to table the SI and looks
unlikely to do so until the next
parliamentary sitting.