'Two years of hell' for fishermen over permit
Immigration and work permit charges were dismissed against two Irish fishermen who used a marine agent to hire Filipino sailors to work on their Cork-based trawler.
Pat O'Mahony (51) and Leonard Hyde (63) had insisted to Cork District Court they always understood the UK agency they hired would ensure full compliance with all Irish visa, work permit and passport regulations.
Both also vehemently insisted that the two Filipino fishermen involved were treated with every consideration and respect while they worked on the 'Labardie Fisher' trawler operating from Crosshaven, Co Cork, in 2015.
Mr Hyde and Mr O'Mahony described the ordeal they faced over the Garda investigation and prosecution as "a two-year nightmare".
"It was two years of absolute torment," Mr Hyde said.
"You have no idea - it was hard, very hard. Health-wise it has been very stressful for all of us and our families."
Mr O'Mahony said it had been two very difficult years.
"We are just very thankful it is all over, lads. The support (from fishermen) was brilliant - absolutely brilliant.
"It was a life-changer for us. So thank God that justice was done."
Judge Aingeal Ní Chonduin dismissed all charges against the men.
The trial heard that other fishermen who used the same agency and route to bring Filipino sailors into Ireland even had those staff given safety training by State agencies.
One Irish trawler had used the same route and procedures to hire Filipino sailors 10 years ago.
The judge said that "mindset" was a central issue - and she had a doubt whether the men ever realised what they were doing was not in proper compliance with regulations.
Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) official John Tattan said as far as he understood, in 2015 what the two men had done was entirely in compliance with regulations.
Mr O'Mahony of Eltin's Wood, Kinsale, Co Cork, and Mr Hyde of Four Winds, Weaver's Point, Crosshaven, Co Cork, had denied all charges.