Updated at 12.10pm
Irish fishermen are planning to peacefully disrupt plans by the Russian Navy to conduct military exercises off the coast of Cork next month.
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland the area was very important for fishermen and that they wanted to protect biodiversity and marine life.
There are currently half a billion tonnes of blue whiting in the area which move up along the coastline, he said.
Mr Murphy added his members felt this is a very serious issue and referred to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who had been on the radio programme earlier talking about the importance of fuel.
“This is the same for us. This isn’t about €100 per person, this is the livelihoods of fishermen and fishing families all around the coastline here.
“We’ve already seen 25 per cent of what we were allowed to catch taken from us in the Brexit negotiations, and the cure to that is to wipe out one third of the fleet again? Another 60 boats are looking to be decommissioned by this Government.
This is our ground, this is our farm, this is where we earn our living
“We’re entitled to go fishing here – It’s our waters. Can you imagine if the Russians were applying to go onto the mainland of Ireland to go launching rockets, how far would they get with that? It’s no different to fishermen – This is our ground, this is our farm, this is where we earn our living.
“Why should somebody be able to come in and do that in our waters? This is going to affect our livelihoods and the marine life. There’s seismic activity out there for years and it actually changed the migratory pattern of tuna at one stage.
“This is a very important ground where fish come to spawn and we don’t know what’s going on out here.
“We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we’re fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn’t be having war games”.
Mr Murphy pointed out the ships would likely be followed by submarines and asked what would happen if the fishing gear and nets got tangled with a submarine. This was a real concern as fishing boats had been sunk by submarines in the past.
“We in our industry feel nothing’s being done here, like everything else, and we want to act. We’re not going to face down boats, we’re not going to take them on that way, but we are definitely making a point here and we want our Government to do something for us.
“Getting rid of us is not the cure, trust me.”
‘There is war looming’
As fisherman prepare to disrupt Russia’s military exercises, Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne has warned that he fears war is looming in Europe because of the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I think this is really a moment of great danger in Europe, and I’m not sure that we’re fully apprised of the seriousness of the situation that there is war looming in Europe and I think it is extremely, extremely worrying.
“I think we’re in a very precipitous situation. There have been diplomatic efforts going on for weeks and months now at this stage to try to prevent this.
“We support all efforts to try to stop this – this could be very dangerous if it happens”, he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
Mr Byrne called on Irish citizens in Ukraine to register with the Irish embassy which opened in Kiev last year.
“We’ve a lot of Irish citizens there, what we’re asking is that Irish citizens register with the embassy,” Mr Byrne said.
“In our experience in situations such as this – whatever number of Irish people we have registered, there’s multiples more who aren’t registered.
“I think it’s very important that they do in case of the outbreak of hostilities, and we are advising people not to go to Ukraine at the moment on any non-essential business or travel.”
According to Mr Byrne, senior officials in Brussels are all “extremely concerned, extremely worried” about the situation.
“We are showing as a European Union 100 per cent full solidarity with Ukraine – they’re entitled to the integrity of their sovereign area, they’re entitled to set their own destiny as a country.
“We must support democracy there, and we must support their rights as a sovereign state.”
Unlike the US, European countries were not withdrawing personnel from diplomatic missions in Ukraine, added Mr Byrne.
“It’s very important that we continue to review the security situation in Ukraine, we’re doing that all the time, obviously the safety of people there is very important.
“But it’s also important that we show full solidarity with Ukraine and not simply walk away from that. I think we’ve done that consistently”.
When asked about Russian plans for naval trials off the south-west coast of Ireland, Mr Byrne echoed the comment by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to the Russian Ambassador: “Russia are not welcome here, this is very, very worrying, as to what they are doing.
“The difficulty we have is that they are entitled to do this under international law in our exclusive economic zone, once they give notification to the Irish Aviation authority they are in compliance with international law.”