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Dingle protesters stop Spanish trawler from landing at harbour, citing Covid-19 fears

The Spanish-owned boat arrived instead at Castletownbere this morning.

Dingle, in County Kerry.
Dingle, in County Kerry.
Image: Shutterstock/diak

PROTESTERS IN DINGLE have prevented the landing of a Spanish-owned trawler at the local port, with fishermen arguing that it poses a risk of spreading Covid-19. 

Last night, RTÉ News reported that the small group of fishermen were mounting the blockade at the entrance to Dingle pier. 

In recent weeks, there had been similar protests in Dingle and Castletownbere against Europe-registered ships in an attempt to prevent them from landing. 

Last night, gardaí were called to try to ensure access to the pier for the trawler. 

In a statement, a garda spokesperson said: “Gardaí attended the scene of a demonstration at Dingle Pier in the early hours of Monday 20 April 2020. No incidents were reported. No arrests have been made.”

The trawler, facing a blockade made up of 40 protesters, was prevented from docking at around 4.30am this morning. 

Instead, the trawler later landed in Castletownbere. 

Locals who spoke to TheJournal.ie had said that there were concerns about ongoing rumours of fishermen from Spanish-owned vessels entering the village to shop for groceries and other reasons.

This is despite new government measures to address the concerns of locals, with the introduction of separate landing zones for all incoming vessels and crew asked to stay within this area when landing.

“Local suppliers will continue to provide any provisions vessels may require”, the government advice states. Provisions such as fuel, groceries etc. will be delivered into the designated area.”

Locally, fishing groups have insisted that the protests are a response to Covid-19 fears. However, there have been some tensions in recent years over the recurring issue of EU fishing quotas, as well as concerns about market allocation during this crisis.  

Patrick Murphy, the CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said locals had not been communicated with properly. Comparing the weekly arrival at some local ports to the same footfall from a “luxury cruiser”, Murphy said that people were genuinely scared of the spread of the virus.

While stressing that his organisation was not involved in the protests, Murphy said that he understood people’s concerns.

“People are in fear for their lives,” he said. Murphy said that it wasn’t just fisherman who were protesting.

“We need to talk to the Spanish authorities and the embassy to find out what safeguards are in place to make sure they’re not sending out sick seamen,” he said. 

He called on the government and local authorities to “communicate between all the different groups to address the fears they’re being bombarded with”. 

Murphy said that these protests were solely about Covid-19. “The bigger story for us in the industry is that markets have collapsed. You have fisherman who haven’t earned any money,” he said. 

But, he said, “if it was about the other issues, you would see the protests here [in Castletownbere] as well”. 

The similar protests three weeks ago were condemned by several fishing organisations as “unnecessary, alarmist and without any reasonable nor rational foundation”. 

“The organisations emphasised that they enjoyed cordial and professionally sound working relationships with their French and Spanish counterparts, as well as with the wider European industry, but protests such as those which had taken place in Dingle and Castletownbere in the last 48 hours were not in anyone’s interests and should not be repeated,” the groups said in a statement issued last month. 

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