Impact of Brexit on Donegal’s fishing community investigated on TG4

The serious impact of the EU post-Brexit trade deal on the livelihood of fishing communities along the west coast of Ireland is the subject of an investigative documentary Iniúchadh TG4 – Anfa Mara to be broadcast on TG4 tomorrow night at 9.30pm.

Investigative journalist Kevin Magee hears first-hand from fishermen in Greencastle and Machaire Rabhartaigh in Donegal, Rossaveel and Inis Mór, Co.Galway, Dingle, Co. Kerry and Casteltownbere, Co. Cork on how their incomes are being squeezed post Brexit.

The fishermen are angry that an estimated 15 per cent of the value of the Irish fishing quota has been taken from them and assigned to the UK as part of the Brexit trade agreement reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union, known as the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) that came into force in January 2021.


The loss of quota to the Irish fleet represents a serious blow to the fishing industry, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. tells the programme.

“Brexit has been a big hit. It has been the most significant hit to quotas since the Common Fisheries Policy was established back 45 years ago,” he said.

“Brexit wasn’t my idea. And Brexit was a very bad idea. Brexit damaged the country that did it, and it damaged its most neighbouring country, and the sector within our own country that has been most impacted is fisheries.

“In order for a deal to happen, there was a re-allocation of EU quota including Irish quota as a result, and that has hurt. There is no two ways about that.”

While the overall quota reduction for Irish fish is down 15 per cent, some species are affected more than others.

The share for Ireland’s largest non-pelagic fishery, prawns, is down 14 per cent, and the reduction for herring in the Irish sea is 96 per cent, according to figures supplied by the DAFM.

“We’ll never fish herring in the Irish Sea again. In the wintertime you could have picked two or three weeks of wages for your crew, to pay for your business, the whole lot. That’s gone, that opportunity,” Greencastle skipper Michael Cavanagh told the programme.


Irish fishermen tell the programme they are frustrated that foreign boats from other EU countries continue fishing in Irish waters while they often remain tied-up on the quayside because they have reached their monthly allocated catch.

Spiddal native Tomás Ó Féinneadha is a crew member on the Sarah David which is currently tied-up in Castletownbere.

He said: “We were landing fish yesterday. We’re going to be docked now for three months. We’ve no quota left. There’s nothing at all left. It’s scandalous. We don’t have much of a quota and we can’t do anything about it.”

To help reduce the impact of the quotas lost through Brexit, the Department introduced a decommissioning scheme to remove fishing vessels from the Irish fleet.

Minister McConalogue explained the reason behind it.

“It was to re-size the fleet in order to make sure that boats were viable,” he said.

“If a percentage wanted to exit and be paid to exit, it would then free up the amount of quota, the percentage of our national quota that those boats would have had. That then gets reallocated among the remaining boats. “

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