Belfast Telegraph

Anger as Royal Navy admits sub almost sank Ardglass trawler

By David Young

An Ardglass skipper whose trawler was almost dragged to the bottom of the sea by a Royal Navy submarine has told how he "doubted his own sanity" after the terrifying incident.

Paul Murphy (46) was speaking after the Ministry of Defence finally admitted yesterday that it was a British sub that had snagged the nets of prawn fishing vessel the Karen back in April.

The boat could easily have been pulled under the water if the quick-thinking skipper and his crew had not been able to cut the nets adrift.

At the time, Mr Murphy suspected it was a sub - but military sources in London said that the nearest British one was 150 miles away.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Mr Murphy said that the incident had left both him and the whole fishing community in south Down in shock.

"My heart is in my mouth every time I go back to sea. You know, I was actually doubting my sanity at one stage. The incident knocked my confidence a lot. I was afraid to take the boat back into the deep water where it had happened.

"I was fishing a lot closer to home, I can tell you!"

It was suspected that a Russian sub was the culprit - but yesterday MoD Minister Penny Mordaunt admitted responsibility.

"The Royal Navy has now confirmed that a UK submarine was, in fact, responsible for snagging the Karen's nets," she said.

"The incident, the delay in identifying and addressing the events on that day, and their consequences are deeply regretted," she told the House of Commons.

But while welcoming the MoD admission, Dick James of the NI Fish Producers Organisation is still furious about how the incident was handled.

"I've been lied to for the past six months," he said. "The Navy denied that there was any submarine within 150 miles of the incident - and now they've had to come out with their hands up."

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: "Fishermen must be confident that their vessels will not be damaged by submarine activity and where incidents do take place, the Government will own up to it immediately.

"It's important now that the owner and crew of the Karen are compensated for the damage done to their vessel and the time they have lost at sea as a result."

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