Wednesday 15 August 2018 08:31:03 AM

McGrath Says New Kickstart Needed For Ardglass Harbour And Fishing Community
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Assembly candidate Councillor Colin McGrath (SDLP) has welcomed the efforts of the local fishing industry stakeholders and the Northern Ireland Fisheries and Harbour Authority to work together and bring a fresh strategic approach to developing the harbour in Ardglass.

Councillor McGrath said: “Ardglass harbour has excellent potential. It could be the jewel in Northern Ireland’s fishing crown if it is given the chance. It is a 24/7 deep water harbour fully accessible to the local fishing fleet.

“And Ardglass was recently voted one of the best villages in the UK in a Sunday Times report and we must follow through on tourism with this accolade. Tourism in the Ardglass area has been steady but Ardglass too has its role to play in the wider tourism strategy for South Down which Tourism NI is eyeing up. Ardglass has an excellent marina, a world-class golf course, excellent restaurants and B&B’s and guest houses. Ardglass needs to get up to its next level in development.
Collie Briggs, skipper, Marianne McGirr, fishwife, Simon Wills, boat owner, with SDLP South Down election candidate Councillor Colin McGrath, Marty Johnston Jnr, East Coast Seafoods, Basil Wills, boat owners, Councillor Dermot Curran, and Jim Masson, stakeholder group.

Collie Briggs, skipper, Marianne McGirr, fishwife, Simon Wills, boat owner, with SDLP South Down election candidate Councillor Colin McGrath, Marty Johnston Jnr, East Coast Seafoods, Basil Wills, boat owners, Councillor Dermot Curran, and Jim Masson, stakeholder group.

“Currently, the harbour is tired looking and many of the buildings are unused or under-ultilised. There must be an effort undertaken to bring new companies and organisations to these buildings to breathe business life into the area. The vessel berths themselves are virually filled up with over 30 fishing vessels.

“The fishing fleet too is in bad need of a dry-dock to enable the local prawn boats to  carry out  important repairs and updates to their vessels to save costly and time-wasting journeys to Kilkeel. I envisage that a dock for painting boats, doing repairs and for general vessel surveys will be a very positive addition to the harbour infrastructure.
“We need a fair deal for our fishermen too. It is bad practice to restrict the amount of days at sea they are allowed to work and then not offer them compensation for preventing them from earning a living. That is a issue within the Common Fisheries Policy. We must also never cease in our lobbying for balanced quotas that allow equality of opportunity to earn a decent wage.
Councillor Colin McGrath has pledged his support to the local fishing industry.

Councillor Colin McGrath has pledged his support to the local fishing industry.

“Underpinning the determination of these quotas with sound scientific advice on the fisheries is essential, and this needs always to be working well to give our fishermen the best deal possible. All too often industry chiefs are disappointed at poor quota allocations at the Brussels fisheries’ summit each December and sometimes this is due to poor science.

“There are many issues around the fishing fleet in Ardglass such as the ageing wooden vessels which will eventually need to be scrapped and replaced. Safety on the trawlers is always a most important consideration. By comparison, the Clogherhead fleet across the border in County Louth has been modernised along with the harbour. They have less trawlers in number today but the capacity of the fleet is still very significant as the newer larger steel trawlers have proven that this was the way forward for the prawn fleet and the fishing community.
“I have met with representatives of the Ardglass fishing community and heard their views first hand. I want to make sure that all appropriate Government and EU  bodies hear these views and deliver for the community of Ardglass so it can continue to be one of the best villages in the UK to live and work in.
“I also welcome fishing stakeholders in Ardglass setting up their own group and hopefully this new organisation will liaise with the NIFHA, DARD and other bodies in due course building a strong and positive relationship and help bring more inward investment to the fishing port and improve the lot of our local fishermen. If elected to the NI Assembly, I will be doing all I can to ensure Ardglass gets our support, through South Down MP Margaret Ritchie and the SDLP generally,” said Councillor Colin McGrath.
Ardglass Councillor Dermot Curran who also attended the walk and meet session with fishing stakeholders added: “I am delighted that there is now some progress in trying to revitalise our port. It has lagged behind for a number of years, but new initiatives now will give local fishing industry interests a welcome boost. There are a number of excellent grant opportunities through the EU and DARD and I will do all in my power to ensure Ardglass gets the support it needs.”