Belfast Telegraph

Minister defends fishing cuts fight

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew has rejected claims she could have done more to avoid cuts to Northern Ireland fishing quotas.

The Sinn Fein minister told the Assembly that after tough negotiations in Brussels she had reduced a threatened 17% cut in prawn catches to 3%.

Ms Gildernew said an additional increase in the herring quota, and the promise of a review of the handling of cod, represented real gains and she accused her critics of seeking unrealistic "wish-lists".

The European talks came to a head with a session of all-night negotiations in December and while the minister said the outcome could have been much worse, she was criticised by the DUP and the SDLP.

But Ms Gildernew said: "You just don't go with a wish-list and get everything that you want."

She added: "Am I disappointed? Well you can never be 100% happy when you come back with a cut, albeit a small one of 3% that we achieved this year.

"But had we come back with 17%, or a figure close to 17%, I wouldn't just have been disappointed, I'd have been devastated, knowing the impact that that would have, not just on our fishers, but on our processors and the wider economic community of south and north Down.

"I'm not anywhere near as disappointed as I might have been, but I accept that a 3% cut is a cut, but I think it is one that the industry will recognise and does recognise, that given the difficulty of this year's negotiation, was a significant achievement."

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