Russian ambassador says military drills won’t disrupt Irish fishermen as Taoiseach offers Irish support for Ukraine
Russia’s ambassador to Ireland told fishermen’s representatives their fishing grounds would not be affected by their navy, amid plans for up to 60 Irish vessels to ‘peacefully disrupt’ the military exercise next month .
Irish fishermen say they can’t afford not to fish due to Russian drills, especially after the disruption caused by Brexit and wintry conditions.
Russian artillery drills in early February will take place in international waters but in Irish-controlled airspace and the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The Department for Transport has issued a maritime advisory saying the Russian Navy is expected to carry out maneuvers off the southwest coast of Ireland from next Thursday.
Fishermen raised their own concerns with Russia’s Ambassador to Ireland, Yuriy Filatov, at the Embassy in Dublin today.
The Russian ambassador to Ireland told them that their fishing grounds would not be affected by the navy drills.
Speaking after talks with Yuriy Filatov at the Dublin Embassy, Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association, said it was a very beneficial meeting.
Mr Byrne said he was “very surprised” by the ambassador’s wealth of knowledge of Irish fisheries matters.
He said an agreement had been reached that there would be a “buffer zone” between Russian vessels and fishing trawlers when military exercises were underway.
“We have now arrived at a place where there is a path of coexistence for naval exercises and for our fishing fleet,” Mr Byrne added.
“The operation must return to Moscow.
“There was a great recognition of the pressures being faced by the Irish fishing industry. There is an appreciation of the value of this fishing area to the whole fishing industry.
“There have been extensive discussions about the scale of the military exercises, and we have pledged not to discuss it further.
“It was a very good day for the Irish fishing industry.
“We explored our options – there was a card at the meeting. The options are clear and they are going back to Moscow.
“There is recognition that there is a valuable fishing area there. It is open on February 1 and there is a tradition that the Irish fishing industry would fish these places. »
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke to Ukraine’s ambassador to Ireland amid growing tensions over Russia’s military buildup on the former Soviet state’s border.
Mr Martin met a small group of protesters outside Leinster House on Thursday afternoon, which included Ukraine’s Ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko and her Lithuanian counterpart.
A spokesperson for Mr Martin said the Taoiseach ‘offers Ireland’s continued support’ to Ukraine.
It comes as the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee has asked Russian Ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov to appear before it next week.
Committee chairman Charlie Flanagan told RTÉ’s Drivetime that Mr Filatov would tell the ambassador that planned Russian military exercises off the Irish coast should be scrapped, and said he hoped the ambassador would be present.
The Russian Embassy did not respond to questions on Thursday about the meeting Mr. Filatov had with the Chief of Defense Staff, Lt. Gen. Seán Clancy, last Friday.
The Irish Southern and Western Fish Producers Organization (ISWFPO) has previously said the military exercises could endanger life and biodiversity in an area “very important” to Irish fishermen.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Patrick Murphy, chief executive of ISWFPO, said the group wanted Russian navy drills to move away from fishing grounds used by Irish boats.
“We are always concerned about safety when it comes to marine environments,” he said.
“I have personally lost family members and friends in the sea. Of course we are aware of this, but we have been asked to point this out because of all our concerns.
“Nobody in the government contacted us or informed us about the exercises.
“We found information on a Russian website that explained everything that was going on long before it was made public.
“Nobody took us down. Most fishermen spend 21 days at sea, they have the right to do their business without worrying about missiles or rockets being launched.”
Mr Byrne said he met the Russian ambassador to Ireland to fight for fundamental rights for the Irish fishing industry.
“We’re not doing anything different this year like we’ve been doing for hundreds of years,” he said.
“The government has not communicated with us and there is a lack of understanding of the value of these fishing grounds.
“We are here to explore Russia’s options to facilitate the Irish fishing industry.
“I don’t think the Russians intended to go to one of the most lucrative fishing grounds for the Irish. It was an unintended consequence.
“We are here on behalf of our industry to tell the Russians that traditionally we are here, we are here now and to observe their actions.”
Ships from the Southern and Eastern Irish Fish Producers Organization (ISEFPO) are also planning to join the protest as Russia attempts to carry out armed military exercises.
ISEFPO chairman John Lynch told Independent.ie they could not afford not to fish after
“Winter, Brexit and all that preceded it”.
“There have been enough difficult times and if the Russian naval fleet does not let them fish in the region, it is a big financial loss for the vessels.
“I also received a call this morning expressing my concerns that the empty shells used in the missiles to pierce the armor could be radioactive. The nets are on the bottom of the sea and from time to time the boats collect empty shells.
“I have extreme safety concerns. It’s not your aunt or your grandmother on those warships, a few fishermen might be surplus.
“There should be a stronger stance to not allow that to happen.”
Up to 60 trawlers will head to Porcupine Bank on February 1 at the start of the shrimp fishing season.
Irish boats are expected to spend approximately two weeks in the area.
Mr Lynch said they were also deeply concerned about the impact this could have on fish stocks in the area.
“It’s right in the middle of the mackerel spawning area, which is a very large stock,” he said.
Speaking after meeting the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Mr Murphy said he would communicate to his ships that they were happy with the meeting.
“He gave us a very guaranteed assurance that he will bring this back to Moscow and explain in detail the importance of this area for our fishermen.
“He gave us the assurance that common sense will prevail and that some of the rhetoric is not correct.
“We are not here to challenge the Russian nation, all we are here to do is to ensure that our boats can fish in their traditional fishing grounds and do so in a safe and fair manner.”
Mr Byrne added: “There will be a clear understanding of who is going to be where, so both sides know there will be a buffer zone.
“This is the important part. There is an absolute guarantee that our traditional fishing grounds will not be affected by Russian naval exercises.
With AP report