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Between A Rock And A Hard Plaice

There are, of course, two sides to every story, and when it comes to the current fishermen’s protest in Greystones harbour, we’ve only heard their take on the current troubles.

Having been denied the right to land their catches in their hometown for the past 11 years, the local fishermen have decided the best kind of protest is simply being there.

And landing their catches. And it’s not despite the fact that they have no legal right to do so, but, because they have no legal right to do so.

Which has meant major headaches for the current harbour master, Bernard Gallagher, tasked with a job akin to having visitors come in and use his hotel’s facilities – and parking lot – without actually having a room there. What’s a manager supposed to do…?

We’ve been knocking on Bernard’s door for a few weeks now, in the hope of getting his version of events, and finally, on the same afternoon that the fishermen’s blockade protest of the harbour passed peacefully, the man has finally been in touch

And this is what he wrote…

Marina operator and harbour master for Greystones Harbour and Marina, BJ Marinas told The Irish Times the organisation yesterday that it was very concerned at recent developments and the proposed blockade of the harbour.

The Harbour Master’s spokesperson said the north pier was not blocked to keep the fishermen out, but was closed to everyone for health and safety reasons because the entrance to it is across a building site where the harbour apartments are being built.

He said BJ Marinas and their staff, as Harbour Master, were there to ensure the smooth running of the marina and wider harbour for all users and the public and the compliance of all users with the existing bye-laws of 2014 as the appointed authorised officer by Wicklow County Council. In many ways, BJ Marinas was caught up in a row that was not of its making, he said. The Harbour Master and staff are simply performing their legal duties to the developer and Wicklow County Council.

The spokesperson said where the fishing boats had moored on the north wall was not only inaccessible, but along a fairway used by marina boat traffic and not permitted under the bylaws. He said lines which had been left tied to the pier had been removed because they were tied to and blocking safety ladders, and because the north pier was closed. The three boats, owned by two fishermen, had been repeatedly advised verbally and in writing that they were not permitted to berth there.

The spokesperson said grease was not used on ladders on the pier. He said last year some anti-graffiti paint was used on ladders because children were jumping off the piers at low tides and this was dangerous because of sunken rubble. As well as sunken rubble, this is a busy marine fairway which made for dangerously close encounters between boats, their propellers, and children in the water. Several near misses were reported with potentially fatal outcomes narrowly avoided. Given the design of the fairway, any mooring to the north wall poses significant health and safety issues, and is in breach of the byelaws and is illegal.

The spokesperson said a number of the byelaws were being broken and that rasies significant safety concerns for the operators and harbour master. Breaches included refueling trucks and trucks collecting catch moving around the harbour with no permission or safety strategy in place. “There are serious health and safety issues here and we would like to see this settled”, he concluded, “as it has now started to affect tourism to Greystones, as many boat owners have cancelled their visits to the Marina, not wanting to get blocked in the harbour. as threatened by the fishermen.”

You can check out today’s harbour blockade here, yesterday’s Irish Times piece on the current troubles here, and trace the history of how the harbour got from there to here right here.