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As a fisherman I know the grim reality of industry that took two Skerries souls

OVER the past four days the whole of north Co Dublin, indeed the entire country, has been anxiously following the search for Ronan Browne and David Gilsenan, the two lobster fisherman lost off Skerries on Friday afternoon.

More to the point, a huge number of local people took it upon themselves to do what they could to assist, with fishermen and private boat owners alike putting to sea where the RNLI lifeboats organised them into flotillas line-abreast to sweep up and down the coast.

Those without the means of putting to sea walked the beaches; Coastguard volunteers searching the shorelines of Fingal, Meath and Louth were joined by hundreds if not thousands of ordinary people anxious to do their bit.



sad

At the time of writing there is no sign of the missing men, and this huge show of public support must surely be of some comfort, possibly the only comfort, to their wives and families.

But the sad fact of the matter is that one way or another the fuss will eventually die down; either the bodies will be found, thus bringing some sort of closure, or time will simply take its toll and public interest will fizzle out.

Ronan Browne and David Gilsenan, sadly, will be forgotten once more - by most people apart from their families and friends.

Forgotten along with every other fisherman in this country.

Because the fact is that just as two more fishermen are now dead, the entire fishing industry in this country is dying.

It is becoming ever more difficult to earn a living from the sea and this inevitably has lead to men taking more and more risks in order to support themselves and their families.

Most of the time they get away with it; occasionally they do not.

There is absolutely nothing to suggest that Ronan and David took any such risks going out last Friday -- both were experienced boatmen -- but what I can say with absolute certainty is that others do and will continue to go to sea in less than ideal conditions, often driven by necessity.

That is the grim reality of fishing here.

I have been a fisherman for most of my life and have fished out of Skerries for the past 20 years, so naturally I knew both men well. I have worked with Ronan and David, had a pint with them, set pots on the same ground as them.

Along with everyone else we have watched Skerries harbour, once packed to capacity with a vibrant fishing fleet, decline to its present-day state of empty dereliction, rats and rust.

The Irish fishing industry has been left to wither on the vine.



ruined

Decades of indifference from Irish governments and the sheer incompetence of European fisheries policy have ruined any prospects it might have had; accession to the EU in 1973 may have been good for Ireland but it was a black day for Irish fishermen.

The government of the day seriously undersold one of the country's most valuable resources and successive governments have simply shrugged their shoulders and looked away.

Since then it has become harder year on year to make the job pay and 12 months ago I decided that enough was enough and gave up fishing.

This weekend was the first time I have been back to sea since -- and for all the wrong reasons.

Ronan Browne and David Gilsenan were two men struggling against the odds, and as such symbolic of the bigger picture.

Sadly they are lost from us, but I'd like to believe that they could yet set people thinking about the role that fishermen could still play in restoring the prosperity of this country if they were only given a chance.



thanks

Meanwhile, as a former fisherman myself, I would like to offer my thanks on behalf of the fishing community to all those who have volunteered their time and effort over the past few days and who continue to do so.

I am sure that Ronan and David's families would too.

A 'Fund for Fuel' Account has been set up in Bank of Ireland, Skerries, to aid the volunteers in their search for David and Ronan. Details are sort code 90 08 93, account number 818 38 744. All donations, no matter how small, welcome


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