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'Play your war games somewhere else': Anger as submarines caused havoc for Irish fishing industry in 1986

A number of incidents involving Irish trawlers and foreign submarines were reported in 1986.

Image: National Archives

IRISH TRAWLERS WERE put in peril by foreign submarines which were using the Irish Sea for ‘war games’ and other surveillance missions.

Records released by the National Archive from 1986 showed the anger among many fishermen and the Department of Foreign Affairs over the proliferation of submarines in Irish waters.

In one incident, the trawler Sharelga was sank leading to a legal case against the British Admiralty.

Incidents in Clougherhead, Louth and Dunmore East, Waterford, led to Wexford TD Hugh Byrne demanding that the US, UK and Soviet fleets “play their war games elsewhere”.

20161208_142113 Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Barry. Source: National Archives

The Forei,gn Affairs Minister at the time, Peter Barry, tried to quell the fears of Irish fishermen  claiming he was in discussions with nations in a bid to stop them using sovereign waters.


He said: “I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate the government’s serious concern about the dangers faced by the Irish fishing trawlers because of submarine traffic in the Irish sea.

“I know that people in Clogherhead and in several other fishing ports are deeply worried by recent incidents. I want to assure them that the government is fully conscious of their anxiety and is using every opportunity in its contacts with the government of countries which are submarine powers, to impress upon them the dangers involved to our vessels.”

Despite Barry’s claims, the relationship between Britain and Ireland was strained. Newspaper reports at the time quoted a British Admiral spokesman as saying “If you go fishing in a submarine exercise area, you might catch a submarine one day.”

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20161208_142045 Sunday Tribune report. Source: National Archives

The British took full responsibility for the sinking of the Sharelga in 1982 and had agreed to pay “all fair and reasonable claims”, according to government documents released by the National Archives.

The British offered IR270,000 which was rejected by the owner of the trawler, who was demanding a figure upwards of one million.

The Government feared that non payment of the compensation was going to fracture the already fragile relationship between the British and Irish.

The report read: “We think it is quite possible that at some point the lack of settlement will become controversial and will be politically exploited and will complicate relations.”

Read: Irish fishermen will be able to catch more fish next year (but less cod and pollock) >

Read: Price of mental health treatment can cost the same as ‘average Dublin rent’ >

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