| 11°C Dublin

naval exercises Eamon Ryan to lift marine warning over Russian drills as fishermen take to sea

Simon Coveney revealed last night that Russia agreed to relocate the contentious military naval exercises to outside Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone

Close

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan. Photo: Gareth Chaney

At the end of a week in which the world was agog at Irish fishermen’s daring manoeuvre to face down a flotilla of Russian warships testing missiles off the south-west coast, diplomacy has prevailed.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney revealed in a tweet last night that Russia has agreed to relocate the contentious military naval exercises to outside Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The minister said he wrote to Russia’s defence minister last week asking him to reconsider the naval exercises off the Irish coast.

“This evening, I received a letter confirming the Russian exercises will be relocated outside of Ireland’s EEZ. I welcome this response.”

The Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yuriy Filatov, confirmed the unexpected development a short time later.

Russia’s Minister for Defence had made the decision “as a good will gesture” in response to requests from the Irish Government and the Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organisation, with “the aim not to hinder fishing activities by the Irish vessels in the traditional fishing areas”. The drills will now take place outside Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone.

Mr Coveney broke the news, but victory was claimed by the South and West Fish Producers Association (SWFPA), the industry body based out of West Cork that made global headlines for threatening to face down Russian warships.

Last night, the SWFPA was making global headlines again. “Russia blinks after Irish fishermen’s vow to block navy war games,” declared CNN.

In an online video message, Patrick Murphy, the chief executive of the SWFPA, said: “It’s a win for the boats that are going out fishing. They’ll definitely feel a lot safer. And it’s a win for the environment as well. It’s a win for diplomacy and it’s a win for conversation and it shows that both sides can come to an amicable arrangement and everybody is happy. What I would have liked is not to have been involved in this in the first place.”

As Russian troops massed along the Ukraine border, stoking fears of an invasion, news broke last weekend the Russian Federation planned a military naval exercise off the Irish coast from this week. The drills were to take place outside Irish waters but within the State’s Exclusive Economic Zone 240km off the southwest coast, between February 3 to February 8.

Protesters called on the government to intervene to prevent environmental fallout on marine life and fish stocks caused by military sonar and artillery. Commentators noted the drill’s proximity to subsea internet cables connecting Europe and the US. Fishers plotted flotillas to surround the Russians.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

Close

Russian troops take part in combat drills in the Rostov region near Ukraine's eastern border yesterday. Photo: Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters

Russian troops take part in combat drills in the Rostov region near Ukraine's eastern border yesterday. Photo: Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters

Russian troops take part in combat drills in the Rostov region near Ukraine's eastern border yesterday. Photo: Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters

 

The South and West Fish Producers Association was concerned about safety of trawlers and fish stocks in the deep waters of the Porcupine Bight, where the Russians had planned to hone their war skills. There was an urgency too, because on February 1, 60 Irish trawlers would set off to fish close to the area where the Russians planned to test their war skills.

The fishers staged a diplomatic intervention and secured a meeting with the Russian ambassador at the embassy on Orwell Road.

“My aim was to ensure our trawlers could fish in an area safely and they were not going to be interrupted and impeded. The ambassador thought we were going to go out and surround the navy ships and stop them,” Mr Murphy told the Sunday Independent.

The upshot of the meeting for both sides was “clarity” despite a dispute over the ambassador offering “absolute guarantees”. Mr Filatov promised to take the fisherss concerns to Moscow; the fishers found the Russians would be 100 nautical miles away from them.

“He [the ambassador] turned to me, and he was really sincere, he said: ‘Patrick, you have to understand that our navy personnel, not one man aboard those boats wants to do harm to one fisherman in your fleet,’ ” Mr Murphy said.

 

“The Russian site has moved off the Continental shelf into deeper waters, which will minimise any impact on Ireland’s marine life and fish stocks,” said Niall Duffy, editor of The Skipper, the industry magazine. “It’s a vi ctory in for fishers.”

Among the trawlers taking to sea will be the Rachel Jay, skippered by Johnny Walsh, a director of the SWFPA: “The government should have gotten this practis e to take place outside the Exclusive Economic Zone in the first place. They turned around and did it only after the SWFPA took the initiative to meet the Russian ambassador and tell him of our concerns."

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Top Videos





Available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Privacy