Response to the article 'Irish Government Paying Rent To UK Crown Estate For Use Of Seabed Of Lough Foyle'
by James Quigley
Up to now the saga of Loughs Foyle and Carlingford ownership, has been sidestepped down through the decades. However, controversy has now reached crisis point and the issue is not over by a long shot, maybe a nautical mile. Many serious issues cry out for an investigation and answers are long overdue.
Take for example the Irish Government, nationalist and republican parties acquiescing in this affair, their subjugation to an English claim of ownership by The Crown Estates in London which is borne out by evidence, provided by Enda Craig in his article, evidence of the quiet handing over of a king's ransom in rent.
This 'Crown' affair and the evidence dug up by Enda is a shot across the bow to the Irish Government. It somehow brings to mind historic times such as Francis Drake, Queen Bess and their imperial quest for treasure and 'Britannia Rules the Waves', piracy and looting. It also reminds one of absentee rack-rent landlords and their local toady overseers.
The evidence shows that rent has been paid since the inauguration of the Loughs Agency in 1998, one of the cross border bodies set up through the Good Friday Agreement. These cross border bodies were controlled by representative political groupings from both North and South including nationalist, republican parties like Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil.
We also know that the thorny question of jurisdiction and ownership cropped up in the 1950's when the Crown Estate tried to introduce fishing licences. However, they gave up after discovering that it would be to difficult or impossible to enforce the levy, unable to pursue defaulting fishermen through the courts. The fishing community believed then, as they do today, that it had always been a right to pursue their traditional way of life and no foreign company was going to start charging them for this right.
It is hard to imagine the Good Friday Agreement setting up a structure like the Loughs Agency to control and manage local resources, a mechanism whereby our own nationalist representatives would then go on to do (or try to do) what the Crown Estates was not able to do i.e levy charges on local fishermen.
But it is another thing altogether to find out that this cross border agency, with the support of nationalist politicians not only imposed licences but then carted the bounty to a foreign crown. Fortunately there were some people with principles who did not buckle under pressure of legal action. One fisherman is presently taking a case against the Agency and this case could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
The affair of ownership of the loughs, the discussions or indeed lack of discussions, in the run up to The Good Friday Agreement and the setting up of the Agency has presented many questions.
Was sovereignty, jurisdiction and ownership discussed prior to the Agreement? It would be incredible that something as fundamental and controversial and wrought with potential conflicts was not discussed.
If it was the case that it was discussed and then agreed to set up the Lough's Agency as overseers of the Lough Foyle and Carlingford without solving the 'elephant in the room' i.e ownership, jurisdiction and sovereignty, then that is a case of a hoodwink perpetrated on the Irish nation?
Enda, as an activist and member of 'Save the Foyle' has been involved in many campaigns dealing with the environment, the ecosystem and local sanitary waste problems for more than 30 years. These pursuits has brought him to the intractable issue of ownership of Lough Foyle and it's wider repercussions.
During this time he has liaised with the local community, including the fishing community who have an inherent expertise and experience of the Loughs. He has been involved in the question of jurisdiction and ownership, studying planning and engineering reports, environmental studies, EU legislation and has encountered monumental official procrastination and bureaucracy.
In his many pursuits there was always this one gigantic problem - no one talking about or acknowledging, the ownership of the sea bed of the loughs and the responsibility of those involved. Like a mollusk clinging to a rock it was hard to penetrate the shell of secrecy.
His article clearly shows not just an ineptitude but also a more sinister element bubbling under the surface, that of the Crown Estate's claim of ownership right up to the high water mark and the incredible involvement of nationalists, not only ignoring and hiding problems but possibly participating in the subterfuge, willing to support charging licence fees and delivering rent to the Crown.
It is cynical in the extreme to find out that our own Government connived with political parties to undermine and destroy Foyle and Carlingford fishermen's traditional rights. Maybe even worse still by using the structure of the Lough's Agency to conceal their dastardly deeds.
As someone I read recently said 'What century are we in now'.
Another possible sinister problem for Loughs Foyle and Carlingford
Jeffrey Donaldson stands by offer to base Trident in Northern - Irish Times Nov 2015