STRANGFORD MP Jim Shannon and Michelle McIlveen MLA met with NI Fisheries MInister Michelle O’Neill at Stormont recently to press home the need for a hardship payment for Northern Ireland fishermen.
Mr Shannon said: “For several months from September 2012 to March 2013, the fishing sector were not able to fish due to severe east winds, insurance costs were up 50%, fuel has risen 40%, additional EU Red Tape continues to strangle local fishing as bureaucracy takes over and what has the potential to thrive can barely survive due to the unnecessary demands.
“For Some time, Cllr Robert Adair, Michelle McIlveen MLA and myself have been working together to try and help the fishermen and ensure that the Minister was completely aware of the real threat there was to the industry. The Fisheries Minister back in 2009 set up a hardship fund and as the demand for prawns decreases and prices drop, there is real desperation at the Harbour, with banks calling for fishermen to re-mortgage and as many fishermen’s houses are tied up with their boats – dire consequences are just on the horizon.
“When we met the Minister she acknowledged the problems and came back on Thursday to say that she would make £500 000 available meaning between £4 000 and £7000 per boat based upon the landing fees paid. The Fish Producers’ Organisations will be tasked with telling Fisheries how the scheme will work. This is a short term shot in the arm and it is great news and can not come soon enough but there is still work to be done at Europe to see our fishermen free to fish.
“Finance Minister Sammy Wilson also visited Portavogie last week to listen to fishermen and find out from them how a loan and banking scheme would work. Suggestions on how to help young people gain a loan needs to be part of any new scheme as well as upgrading and replacement of boats to deliver greater efficiency. The cost of fuel needs to be decreased and efficiency is one way of doing that.
” With ‘Going for Growth’, the Minister’s pledge can only be helpful if it is done with the cooperation of local fishermen. They know what they need and the Minister needs to listen and build a strategy around that, ” added Mr Shannon.]]>