Tuesday 23 July 2019

Rockall row: Taoiseach and Scottish First Minister call for 'dialogue and de-escalation'

Rockall has been at the centre of a fishing dispute between Scotland and Ireland (SNH/PA)
Rockall has been at the centre of a fishing dispute between Scotland and Ireland (SNH/PA)
John Downing

John Downing

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to avoid confrontation with Ireland over the Rockall fishery dispute.

“We don’t want confrontation with any country, but certainly not with a partner as close as Ireland. So we are focusing on trying to find an agreed way forward for this, and as I said these discussions are ongoing,” the Scottish government leader told Euronews.

Ms Sturgeon’s comments came as the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that contacts between officials in Edinburgh and Dublin had been stepped up to reduce tensions in the dispute.

Mr Varadkar said the matter had been discussed by the Cabinet and by the Scottish government at their meeting.

“It has been agreed that a process of intensified engagement will take place led by senior officials from both administrations.

"I think it’s fair to say that both administrations would like to see this matter de-escalated,” the Taoiseach said.

Mr Varadkar said dialogue was continuing between the Irish and Scottish governments.

“There have been close contacts at official level over recent days to de-escalate tensions,” the Taoiseach added.

But Mr Varadkar told opposition TDs that Rockall was not raised at his recent meeting in Dublin with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.  But it has been discussed by Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Marine Minister Michael Creed in talks with their Edinburgh counterparts and the EU Commission had been briefed.

Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, described the stance adopted by Scotland as “frankly bewildering.” 

She called on the Taoiseach to go directly to Edinburgh to raise and resolve the issue since Scotland was an ally of Ireland on Brexit.

Fianna Fáil Donegal TD, Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, said he was concerned by Scottish threats to impound Irish boats fishing within a 12-mile zone around the rock in the north Atlantic.

The Taoiseach said Rockall was a rock or sea stack in the middle of the Ocean. “It’s, uninhabitable it’s uninhabited and I don’t think it’s something that Ireland and Scotland should fight over,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland had no claim on Rockall.  “We don’t accept any other sovereign claim on it. We think the fisheries and territory around it should be shared and the Irish vessel fishing in those waters have EU quota,” the Taoiseach said.

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