NI boats get to sail out of Clogherhead
An order for the immediate release of two boats detained in Clogherhead was made at the conclusion of last Friday's court case in Drogheda when two fishermen pleaded guilty to breaches of Irish fishing regulations.
Jack Brown (56), 12 Rooney Park, Kilkeel, Co. Down and Kevin Trainor (46), 9 Casement Park, Kilkeel are captains of the 'Amity' and 'Boy Joseph' respectively, the vessels which were seized by the LÉ Orla in Dundalk Bay on Tuesday, 26 February last.
Judge John Coughlan applied the probation act in each case after describing the two defendants as 'people of absolute integrity' who should be dealt with as leniently as possible.
'I do not think they should have a conviction,' the judge continued.
The boats had been berthed in Clogherhead, having been detained under a 48-hour order issued in Dundalk court on Wednesday.
Sgt John Heavey, Dunleer garda station, gave evidence the two 10m boats were initially detained by the Irish Navy for fishing within the 6-mile exclusion zone in Dundalk Bay.
The vessels were inspected and contained 'modest' quantities of shellfish.
The 'Amity' had a catch worth approximately €2,000, and the 'Boy Joseph' €1,200.
Both loads were 'disposed of'.
State solicitor for Co. Louth Fergus Mullen said neither man has previous convictions and they co-operated fully.
They were 'afforded a degree of co-operation' by the local fishing community.
He explained there was a reciprocal arrangement in place between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fisherman to fish in this manner up until 2016, when a Supreme Court decision here rendered this 'gentleman's agreement' invalid.
Mr Mullen added the maximum fine is €5,000 and the court has full discretion.
Counsel for the two accused said they are small fishermen, earning a modest living.
As a result of the Supreme Court decision Northern Ireland fishermen are, unfortunately, missing out.
She sought the probation act for her clients, adding they had come with cash to perhaps donate to the R.N.L.I.
Judge Coughlan said this (fishing) arrangement was reached in the 1960s, and Republic of Ireland fisherman are presently fishing within the 6-mile limit in Northern Ireland.
However, he is bound by the Supreme Court ruling.
The judge told Jack Brown and Kevin Trainor he would apply the probation act and explained to them they did not have a conviction.
He also set aside the detention order, and ordered the immediate realise of the two vessels and the return of their log books.