Republic of Ireland news

Scottish government warns of enforcement action against Irish fishing boats around Rockall

Rockall in the North Atlantic is at the centre of a fishing dispute between the Irish and Scottish governments. Picture by SNH, Marine Scotland/Crown Copyright/PA Wire
John Monaghan

SCOTLAND'S Fisheries Minister has warned that any Irish vessels which do not stop fishing around the disputed waters at Rockall could be boarded.

Fergus Ewing said that attempts at an "amicable agreement" had "failed", which "leaves us with no alternative but to seek to enforce the law and that is what we will now proceed to do".

Ireland, along with Denmark and Iceland, dispute the UK's 1955 claim to the eroded volcano, which measures around 100ft wide and 70ft high.

The uninhabited outcrop in the North Atlantic lies around 230 miles northwest of Donegal and 240 miles west of Scotland.

The latest row broke out after increased activity from Irish vessels around Rockall. The Scottish government said they would take enforcement action against any vessels caught within 12 nautical miles of Rockall.

Mr Ewing told BBC Scotland that the Irish government had been formally notified of intended enforcement action on May 31.

Mr Ewing said: "This is a routine enforcement matter to ensure that illegal activity within the UK's territorial waters, namely within a radius of 12 miles of the islet of Rockall, ceases.

"We have been engaging with the Irish government for a considerable length of time because we would prefer that this matter is resolved by discussion and negotiation amicably, and that remains the case.

"I do hope that the Irish government will intervene to provide clear advice to their fishers to cease and desist."

However, his Irish counterpart, Michael Creed, said he would not be ordering Irish boats to leave the area.

Mr Creed said that Ireland had never recognised UK jurisdiction over Rockall, and that Irish fishermen had a right to be there under the EU common fisheries law.

He told RTÉ: "We believe they are legally entitled to be there and we won't be asking our fishermen to leave the region around Rockall."

The minister said that the Irish government would exhaust all legal options but added that he believed a sensible solution could be found.

John O'Kane, of Greencastle Fishermen's Co-Operative, said three Irish skippers were fishing in the area, as they had done for the past 30 years, and would continue to do so.

"We feel that this is a political stunt by the SNP. The Irish government have to fight this tooth and nail.

"There is no tension at all between the Scottish and Irish fishermen. This has blindsided us. It's just come out of the blue," he said.

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