EU divided: Anger as Brussels hits out at Ireland and suspends millions in fishing aid

Brussels said it was imposing the sanction because of Dublin’s failure to establish a penalty points system for serious breaches of fisheries rules. The European Commission said it also intended to launch infringement proceedings against Ireland in the long-running dispute which has seen Leo Varadkar’s Government clash with industry leaders, Fianna Fáil and most of the Opposition.

Marine Minister Michael Creed blamed Fianna Fáil for blocking regulations which would have handed out penalty points to boats landing illegal catches, failing to declare catches and illegally altering fishing logbooks.

Fianna Fáil MP Pat Gallagher said his party was not against a points system in principle but said the measures did not allow a right of appeal or the removal of penalty points if a skipper was cleared in court.

Mr Gallagher said it was like a motorist receiving penalty points before being found not guilty but still having their licence endorsed.

He accused Mr Creed of using EU funding as a “threat” to force the Opposition and fishermen to comply with unfair rules.

Mr Creed has held talks described as “hostile” with fishing industry bosses about the new regulations.

Francis O’Donnell, of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation accused the minister of “putting himself above the courts”.

He said the fishermen were back to “groundhog day” on this and would fight the “injustice”.

A Marine Department source said the withdrawal of the EU money, used for investment in infrastructure and vessels and provides funds for the Irish Sea Fisheries Protection Authority “is real, it’s a fact”.

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