----- The Voice of Ireland's Fishing Industry and Maritime Community - Published Monthly, Established 1989 -----

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September 2017 Issue - Vol 30 No.04

September 2017 issue in all good stockists

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Marine Times Newspaper
Editor: Mark Mc Carthy
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Dermot Conway
Managing Partner of Conways Solicitors, Cork and Dublin and has specialised in Maritime Law since qualifying as a solicitor in 2000.

The Danger of Spin

Fisheries Solicitor Dermot Conway writes that it is “nothing short of appalling to watch TD’s accept at face value all sort of nasty assertions being peddled about the fishing industry, without any questioning” and “a disgrace to see public representatives forming opinions based on ‘fake news’.

September 2017 Issue Vol 30 No. 04

TDs Lapped Up Fake News at the Joint Oireachtas Committee

When Donald Trump was elected President he did so on a crest of accusations of ‘fake news’ and lies by the traditional media. When challenged by factual-based questions, or accusations, he would simply reply that this was ‘more of the media’s lies and fake news’. It is a strategy of answering by accusation rather than answering by way of substance.

The fishing industry, in my opinion, is currently facing an onslaught of ‘fake news’ accusations which is nearly impossible to deal with. I refer to the recent media coverage of the employment of Non-EEA Fishermen and the work permit system.

On the 4th of July a Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting was told:
“There are only 42 permits today in existence today for an industry that has more than 1,500 migrant workers”.

My office alone has renewed over 123 such permits in 2017 alone. Where did 42 permits come from?
Like ‘fake news’ – the numbers ‘42’ and ‘1,500’ have been plucked from the ‘Trumpsphere’ with no basis in reality. The idea that there can be armed raids in November 2016 and not one undocumented worked found begs the question - where are these 1,500 migrant workers exactly hiding and why could the ‘sniffer’ dogs not find them?

Of course the fact is that these numbers serve nothing but to garner headlines, promote personal agendas and, perhaps more tellingly, are at the sole cost of the Fishing Industry’s reputation.

At the recent Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation which was discussing the ‘Atypical Work Permit Scheme’ pertaining to the fishing Industry, the attendees on that occasion were: Ms Edel McGinley and Ms Dearbhla Ryan from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, MRCI, and Mr. Ken Fleming, Mr. Darren Proctor and Mr. Padraig Yeates of the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

Not a single representative from the Fishing Industry present.

Given the legal privilege that attaches at such a Committee, it was nothing short of a disgrace.

The permits were referred to as ‘dog licences’ …. ‘The maximum time they enjoy from one length of Ireland to the other at any one time is a two-hour rest period’ …., ‘ I feared …that we would legalise slavery, which is exactly what we have done’ …. and when asked about international comparisons - ‘There is no two-ways about it; we are the worst.’

What is the evidence for any of this? The TD’s lapped it up and were ‘appalled’. Not one of them asked if any of this ‘fake news’ was documented or if any of the assertions were verifiable.

Having listened to biased, unproven poison, Mr. Niall Collins TD (FF) actually stated: ‘It would be right to hear from the other actors who are not behaving as they should be, as outlined by Mr. Fleming, for example, the Maritime Survey Office, MSO, the Workplace Relations Commission, which used to be NERA, and representatives of the people who own the fleet, namely, the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, IFPO.’

There was no ‘evidence’ of any mis-behaviour on the part of anyone because it was all assertion and guff.

Tom Neville TD (FG) stated ‘We are talking about human beings and the reported conditions in which they are working, or trying to work’

What ‘reported conditions’ are we talking about? If someone stands up and says it is raining it is customary for someone to verify if this is correct. It is a disgrace to see Public representatives forming opinions based on ‘fake news’. It is nothing short of appalling to watch TD’s accept at face value all sort of nasty assertions being peddled without any questioning or digging.

I thought it ironic that the Minister for Education announced in June a new Course resource to help teach primary schoolchildren about the media, advertising and ‘fake news’.

It would appear that our TD’s should attend this course as well.

The difficulty for the Industry is that ‘Fake News’ works. People listen to it and worse, want to believe what they hear. It plays to some part of their own preconception about the subject matter being criticised.

Bearing in mind the alleged 1,500 undocumented migrant workers on fishing vessels, the WRC recently reported that they had undertaken 208 inspections of the whitefish fleet, involving 150 of the 176 whitefish vessels over 15 metres in length and initiated 5 prosecutions where compliance by other means was not secured - 5 prosecutions!