Irish right-wing uses fisheries as wedge issue in EU election campaign

Two members of Ireland's Teachta Dala party
Two members of Ireland's Teachta Dala party
4 Min

The Ireland First Party, one of a clutch of new far-right parties to emerge onto Ireland’s political scene in recent months, has made the country’s fishing industry a plank of its policy platform in the run-up to European Parliament elections in June 2024.

A pamphlet mailed recently to all households in Ireland’s Midlands and Northwest electoral region by Ireland First’s candidate for the region Margaret Maguire said the party wants to “reclaim our waters and build back our fishing industry.” 

“Ireland is losing 84 percent of our fisheries at a cost to Ireland of over EUR 200 billion [USD 215 billion] and counting,” the Ireland First pamphlet said.

SeafoodSource’s attempts to reach Maguire for clarification on her party’s positions were unsuccessful. Irish Fish Producers Organization (IFPO) Chief Executive Aodh O’Donnell told SeafoodSource he couldn’t identify the source of the EUR 200 billion figure and not sure what it was based on.

Most of Ireland First’s social media accounts focus on immigration and the need to limit the entry of asylum seekers and non-working E.U. citizens to Ireland. Maguire’s pamphlet also pledges to review Ireland’s participation in global efforts to combat climate change.

Another Irish party, Aontú, has enlisted Patrick Murphy, the Cork-based CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organization, as its European candidate for the Ireland South constituency.

In a campaign statement, Murphy claimed Ireland lost 15 percent of its fishing quota following Brexit, including 100 percent of its quota for certain species.

“Our government has simply given away the livelihoods of fishermen in this country,” Murphy said. “Despite having some of the richest fishing grounds in Europe, Irish boats have consistently been given lower quotas of fish than those from other European countries in Irish waters. Currently, Belgian boats have a higher quota of black sole – a staple of the Irish industry – than Irish fishermen do.”

Murphy said Ireland is being forced to decommission its fishing fleet while fish landed in Irish ports by E.U. fleets are bypassing local processing facilities.

“There is no cumulative benefit to this country whatsoever [from the current system],” Murphy said.

Murphy wants quota left unused by French and Spanish fleets to be handed to Irish fleets for their use.

“Aontú and I are working hard in the lead up to the 2026 Brexit fishing agreement renegotiation for fair play in our fishing industry – for Irish boats in Irish waters to be able to thrive, not just survive,” he said.

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