The Chief Executive Officer of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation has said the Brexit process has been a harrowing and grim journey for fishermen in Donegal.
Sean O'Donoghue warned that a disorderly Brexit would destroy the fishing industry in Ireland.
His comments come after it emerged that much of the fishing fleet has been tied up in Killybegs indefinitely and complete fishing quotas already caught ahead of the March 29 Brexit deadline now passed.
“We might as well pack our bags and sail off into the sunset if this comes to pass,” M. O'Donoghue said.
“Generations of sustainable employment and history will have been obliterated by an act of political recklessness on the other side of the Irish Sea. It's a truly appalling vista which lies before us.”
He said there is fear among those in the industry at what might happen.
However, he said that even at this late stage, he remains hopeful that a deal may be done between the British Government and the EU.
“The incredulity around the unfolding Brexit shambles in the House of Commons has now morphed from justified anxiety to downright fear as we witness one of the defining political moments of our generation played out in complete chaos before us,” he said.
“The fishing industry is the life-blood of our communities and in Donegal for example, 12% of the coastal population depends on fishing to make a living.”
O’Donoghue continued: “The Brexit process has been a harrowing and grim journey for fishermen. Like a teacher without a classroom or a taxi-driver without a vehicle, our fishermen are staring into the abyss of being unable to access the waters which provide on average more than 30% of their catch.
We catch 60% of our mackerel in UK waters with Irish fishermen generally catching them near the Shetlands where they carry the best quality.
“Without access to British waters, this fishery is rendered economically unviable and the years of investment, development and progress made by so many entrepreneurs and business-people is ripped from beneath them.
“We might as well pack our bags and sail off into the sunset if this comes to pass. Generations of sustainable employment and history will have been obliterated by an act of political recklessness on the other side of the Irish Sea. It’s a truly appalling vista which lies before us.”
Concluding Mr O’Donoghue said: “Even at this late stage, I genuinely remain hopeful that there will be a deal between the UK and the EU. The alternative is simply too grim to countenance.
“Our industry neither wants nor aspires to being in the position of seeking fit-for-purpose emergency funding to effectively decommission vessels, driving families off the sea and away from a way of life which they have taken pride in for generations.”
In Killybegs much of the fishing fleet has been tied up in the port indefinitely and complete fishing quotas already caught ahead of the March 29 Brexit deadline.
Fish stocks have been placed in cold storage and amid fears of a UK crash-out, the knock-on effect for those working in the marine sector in this county is a major concern.
The situation has been highlighted by local election candidate Eimear McGuinness who said those who work in the fishing sector in south west Donegal had little choice to adopt a cautionary approach in the absence of any certainty in the negotiations over Brexit.
“Many people have been paying little regard to Brexit, treating it as something they see non-stop on Sky News,” she said.
“The reality is much different. Brexit is very local to Donegal.
“Each year approximately 66% or more of our mackerel quota is being caught in UK or Scottish waters and it was prudent that if the UK were to leave the EU by the March deadline the remaining part of our quota uncaught could have ended up in jeopardy and potentially we may not have been able to catch it. This would have resulted in a complete loss to the fishing sector.
“In the event of a crash out, it is most probable that the Irish fleet would not have been permitted to fish in these waters.”