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Minister insists Ireland can fish in waters disputed by Scots

Action threat: Michael Creed
Action threat: Michael Creed

By John Downing

The Republic's minister responsible for fisheries has said he will not ask Irish fishermen to leave waters around Rockall, despite a renewed threat of enforcement action by the Scottish authorities.

Irish agriculture minister Michael Creed, who is also in charge of marine policy, said the Republic had never recognised British jurisdiction over the eroded volcano, which lies 260 miles off the Outer Hebrides. British ships claim exclusive fishing rights for 12 miles around it.

Mr Creed said that since Britain had passed the Island of Rockall Act in 1972, it had never sought to enforce the exclusion zone.

He said that the Republic had a right to fish there under EU common fisheries law and that it had a quota known as Rockall Haddock Quota.

But Scotland's rural economy minister told RTE radio yesterday that Irish vessels could be boarded if they continue to fish the waters around Rockall.

The Scottish Government last week revived an old row about the tiny outcrop, which has a multi-million pound seasonal catch of haddock, monkfish and squid. While the rock is incapable of inhabitation the row is fuelled by rich fishing grounds and the unfulfilled promise of mineral wealth.

The Edinburgh authorities surprised by threatening action against Irish vessels which it said are fishing illegally off Rockall.

Scotland's Fisheries Minister Fergus Ewing said it was disappointing that Irish fishing vessels continued to operate in the area.

He said the Scottish Government's threatened action was "entirely routine" and part of ongoing fishery enforcement.

In an apparent reference to Brexit last week, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the Republic would be "unwise to pick a fight when just over the horizon there is a much broader swathe of arrangements to be made."

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