Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has raised the issue of the Penalty Points system with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed in the Dáil, questioning the Minister on the matter of the two previous failed attempts to bring in this new system of sanctioning fishermen.
“It is essential that the constitutional rights of the citizen are protected and individual’s right of appeal is guaranteed. The Supreme Court has already ruled that the two previous Statutory Instruments (SI) to be unconstitutional and unfair to the rights of the individual to appeal a prosecution,” the Donegal TD says.
“Any attempt by the Bureaucrats in Brussels to blackmail the Irish people with the withdrawal of funding under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) must be resisted and challenged by the Government; furthermore Brussels must respect the rights of the Irish citizen under our constitution.”
Pat the Cope added: “The Minister must stand up to the pressures from Europe to introduce a system which is in keeping with the principles of common law and the rights of the Irish citizen under the Irish Constitution, in the two previous judgements by the Irish Courts – the Courts were very critical of the attempts not to afford the right of appeal to the Irish Fishermen.
“I impressed on the Minister that any new SI must allow for unrestricted rights of appeal by the fishermen, it must restore the common law principle of each party being innocent until proven guilty and most importantly no one is sanctioned with fixed penalty points on their respective licences, until all appeals open to the individual are exhausted in line with accepted principles of common law.
“The system which was attempted to be brought in by the Government placed the burden of proof on the fisherman – in other words they were guilty until they proven themselves innocent – this is totally unacceptable.”
Pat the Cope says that he informed the Minister for the Marine that until such “principles of fairness and rights appeal” are guaranteed by the Government and clearly incorporated into the new SI on penalty points – “it is only then the Fianna Fáil party would consider supporting the introduction of any draft Statutory Instrument dealing with penalty points.”
“I also called upon the Minister to actively engage with the sector and consult with the fishermen’s organisations in order to chart the best possible route forward.
“The two previous draft SIs fell well short of what would be acceptable and after two failed attempts to bring in the new system it is going to be important the Minister consult widely and bring on board the rulings of the Irish Courts.
“At the conclusion of the Dáil debate the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine assured the house that the new SI would be fully reflective of the Supreme Court decision,” concluded Pat the Cope.Tags: