KILLOUGH man Martin Rice has decided to enter into the political fray and stand for a place in the local Down District Council election for Sinn Féin.
He has long had an interest in politics but recent events in his life have forced him to take a good hard look at how ordinary people are coping in the face of the recession.
Born in Killough in Quay Street, Martin has a family of four, and fully understands what parental responsibility is all about. After he left the De La Salle High School as a pupil, he served his time as a marine engineer and worked in Portsmouth for nine years, then returned home to his native Co Down. He has worked in the marine environment ever since and is well known around the fishing ports.
In 1996 Marty even tried his hand at being a deckhand on a prawn trawler for a stint when the industry was buoyant but he said, “After qualifying as a skipper and getting my own trawler, like quite a few boat owners I could not make ends meet when the downturn came in the fishing industry. I fullly understand the plight of fishermen today facing huge fuel bills, having their prices limited by the market, facing strict EU regulations and also getting less revenue from fish sales due to stocks that have all but crashed. The bulk of the work fishermen do now is in prawn fishing and it is very hard work often for little returns.
“Prawn prices went down to £15 a stone and the hardships set in to the fishing industry and this directly impacted on the fishing communites. I have fished all over the Irish Sea and have a good knowledge first hand of the fishing industry North and South, and I believe there needs to be an All-Ireland strategy in sorting out some of the issues they are faced with.
“There is something drastically wrong when the Marine Institute research shows that fishermen land €1.2 billion but only claw back 18% of this total. This needs to be dealt with right up to EU level leaving no stone unturned.
“A review of the Common Fisheries Policy may be pending but time is not on the side of many fishermen who find it increasingly difficult to balance their books.
“Our natural resources at sea are badly managed and I am prepared to lend my support with Sinn Féin to the fishing industry to try and move this log jam.”
Martin was also amazaed that container loads of prawns with shells on were being sent to Asia for processing and returned to the UK de-shelled. “There must be a way to address this and create jobs in Co. Down in the three ports. We need a long term strategy. We need all stakeholders working together – the fishermen, Seafish, government and EU agencies, the producer organisations and the NIFHA. There may be no simple solution but we must try and create a new, fresh impetus. Our coastal economy depends much on the fishing industry.”
But Down News asked Martin, ‘Why Sinn Féin’? “I believe it is the only true All-Ireland party that promotes an agenda for a united Ireland that has the interest of everyone at heart. Sinn Féin is probably now the largest party in the North and it plays its part in the governance at the Assembly. For example, Fisheries Minister Michele Gildernew has been working on a new decommissioning scheme for the fishing industry which will be announced soon.
‘”But Sinn Féin is concerned about bread and butter issues as well as other higher level political and economic matters. We have been at the forefront of government in Northern Ireland making the peace process work.
“There are many local issues which we are support, for example, the retention of a 24-hour acccident and emergency service at the Downe Hospital. I know from first hand expereience the importance of having a good A&E in our area. Recently while under serious stress when my business was not going well I developed severe chest pains and was well looked after. Fortunately is was not long-term or serious. This is the cold reality what I faced and what many others face too.
“There are many isues too that I think are important in Down District. For example, I think we need to make more bonfires more eco-friendly, and I would be only too happy to work with the organisers in Killough to achieve this and have a bonfire beacon in place. Also, I think that rural communities such as Killough, Ardglass Ballyhornan, Ballykinlar need strong representation and are often forgotten about.
“I would like to see the Ballyhornan Task Force back on track as the residents are wondering why this had an initial meeting about a year ago and has not met since. There are many big issues in the Bishopscourt area to adddress such as sewage, roads lighting and water infrastructure, gettting rid of old military fences, and ant-social behavior. I think Patricia Curran and her team have done a great job in setting up a new community centre and deserve all our support. But this area certainly falls into the ‘forgotten’ category.”
Martin’s interests stretch far and wide and in his own Killough community. He has been instrumental is helping set up an Irish speaking play school in the village at the Mill Field. “I believe people have the right to be educated in their national language, their first langauge. The new naiscoil is a tremendous facility which was supported by Education Minister Cairtriona Ruane.
“I hope I am elected to Down District Council and if so I will do my level best to represent everyone in my area. Local politics needs new blood.”
Some Things You May Need To Know About Martin Rice.
* Martin follows road racing closely.
* He was the captain of the Anchor Bar golfing society in Killough for five years.
* He follows international rugby.
* Has a passion for the fishing industry
* Enjoys reading up on history.
* Enjoys conspiracy theories – doesn’t believe the Americans were first to land on the moon.