Irish fishermen pledge ‘peaceful protest’ to disrupt Russian naval exercise
Fishermen planning to peacefully disrupt Russian military exercises off the coast of Ireland have been warned by the country’s deputy prime minister not to put themselves in danger.
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish Organization of Southern and Western Fish Producers, said some of its members were planning to stage a protest against the military drills next month.
He said the Russian Embassy had been in contact about the planned protest, saying “it would be unwise of us to send boats to intervene in their exercise.”
Russian navy ships plan to conduct a live-fire exercise early next month 150 miles off the coast of Ireland
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, pictured right, said the naval exercise was ‘not welcome’ in Ireland’s exclusive economic zone
The Russian exercise is taking place in international waters but is inside Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone
The live fire exercise is taking place in Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone
Mr Murphy said three boats would be involved in the protest and would continue to fish in their traditional waters.
However, fishing vessels could be at additional risk due to the presence of submarines – Russian and NATO – which will likely follow the naval flotilla.
The early February artillery drills will take place 150 miles offshore in international waters but in Irish-controlled airspace and within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Mr Murphy said the area was ‘very important’ for fishing and they wanted to protect biodiversity.
On Monday, Russia’s ambassador to Ireland said plans for naval drills off the coast of Ireland were a “non-history”.
Yury Filatov played down the significance of the drills, after concerns were raised by the Irish government.
Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said they were “not welcome”.
Asked about the fishermen’s plans, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday: “I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to any of the fishermen operating in this area.”
Three ships from Castletownbere in West Cork will take part in the naval drill protest
“I guess I would just tell them these are military ships. Whatever they choose to do in terms of protests, just make sure they don’t put themselves in harm’s way.
Mr Varadkar said the military exercises were taking place outside Irish territorial waters, leaving Ireland no power to prevent them from happening.
“But we have made it very clear that these exercises are not welcome, especially in the current context, when tensions are rising in relation to Ukraine,” Varadkar added.
“It is communicated to them very strongly. There are no plans to send Irish troops to Ukraine, this has not been discussed.
Mr Varadkar said the Cabinet had received a full briefing from Mr Coveney on fears Russia was invading Ukraine.
“It is very serious, there is a real fear that we are witnessing a land war on the European continent,” added the leader of Fine Gael.
“We haven’t seen this for a very long time.
“Besides the humanitarian impact, it could also have an economic impact on us.
“We had a full briefing on that today. We coordinate our response, of course, with our European partners and our UN partners.
“The Russian drills off Cork and Kerry, while not illegal, are not welcome.
“We don’t believe they are related to the events in Russia and Ukraine, but we would certainly prefer if they didn’t happen.”
In accordance with legal requirements, Russia informed the Irish aviation authorities in advance of the planned activities.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said there would be no impact on the safety of civil aircraft operations.
The Russian Embassy in Dublin has warned trawlers against fishing on their traditional lands during the exercise.
An embassy spokesperson told RTE: ‘We have seen the statement from the Southern and Western Irish Fish Producers’ Organization that some of their members are planning to ‘peacefully disrupt’ the exercise Russian naval force in Atlantic waters next month”. While we understand fishers’ concerns about the integrity of marine resources, there is no basis or scientific data to suggest that these exercises would influence ocean biodiversity.
“At the same time, we would believe that any attempt to interfere with military exercises would be a reckless and irresponsible act which could endanger both seafarers and fishermen. This was all explained to the Fish Producers’ Organization of Southern and Western Ireland.