British submarine was behind Ardglass trawler incident, confirms Ministry of Defence
A British submarine damaged a fishing trawler that was towed quickly through the Irish Sea, the Ministry of Defence has said.
The Karen was carried at 10 knots after the sub snagged in its fishing nets 18 miles from Ardglass on the south-east shore of Northern Ireland in April. The trawler was badly damaged but the crew escaped unharmed.
Ardglass is one of the north's main fishing ports.
MoD minister Penny Mordaunt said: "The Royal Navy has now confirmed that a UK submarine was, in fact, responsible for snagging the Karen's nets. The incident, the delay in identifying and addressing the events on that day, and their consequences are deeply regretted.
Archive video: Submarines in Irish Sea getting caught in fishing nets
"It is standing Ministry of Defence (MoD) policy not to comment in detail on submarine operations but, exceptionally, I can say that this incident occurred because the submarine did not correctly identify the Karen as a fishing vessel with nets in the water, and thus did not give her the berth she would otherwise have had.
"Moreover, had the submarine been aware of the incident at the time, which it was not, then the protocols in place under the code of practice for submarine operations in the vicinity of fishing vessels would have required the submarine to surface and remain on scene while the matter was investigated."
The four fishing crew members scrambled to release wires connecting the net to the out-of-control trawler, which had been moving slowly forward but was suddenly sent careering backwards through the water.
As the ship steadied, the shaken trawlermen stopped to catch their breath but there was no sign of the cause.
The vessel made its way back to Ardglass. Part of the deck had to be lifted because it was so badly damaged, and another section was ripped off.
Shortly afterwards Ms Mordaunt said she was confident no British submarine was involved.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: "Fishermen must be confident that their vessels will not be damaged by submarine activity and where incidents do take place, the Government will own up to it immediately.
"It's important now that the owner and crew of the Karen are compensated for the damage done to their vessel and the time they have lost at sea as a result. I will continue to pursue this matter until we have reached a satisfactory resolution."
Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly member Chris Hazzard said fishermen deserved to be able to work in an environment where they did not have to worry about submarines sinking their boats as fishing was already a dangerous occupation.
"The British Government and MoD must now explain their actions, if any disciplinary measures will be taken arising out of this incident and how it will avoid similar incidents in the future."