SO MUCH FOR A QUIET DAY ANGLING ON THE RIVER

Hard to believe but this happened Sunday 8.6.14 at Doochary, Co Donegal. It seems they want us to take up another sport.

FISHERY BOARD HEAVY HANDED TACTICS USED AGAINST LICENSED ANGLERS ON THE GWEEBARRA

Ever since the attempted eviction of the local anglers on the Gweebarra River was resisted in a campaign started in 2006, the long running dispute for angling rights was escalated yesterday as fishery board staff used force against anglers with An Garda Siochana having to intervene to protect one angler who alleges he was in danger. In what was supposed to be the usual peaceful Sunday morning’s fishing on their local Gweebarra river, was turned into turmoil by the very heavy handed intervention of fishery board staff.
The planned and regular angling outing on the Gweebarra river was underway from early Sunday morning saw the regular members ofthe Rosses Anglers and Fintown Anglers Associations fishing with a few salmon and seatrout being landed as conditions were favourable. Close to noon, two fishery board jeeps and one car started patrolling the road around the fishery and anglers observed the IFI staff watching them through binoculars and recording equipment from a distance.
As they fished the famous Mayo pool, an IFI jeep accompanied by a Garda patrol car arrived in the car park at 11.30am. Another Garda patrol car arrived some time later, as the fishery officers approached several anglers and asked for current angling licenses, which they all had in order and showed to the officers in compliance with the law. They were then asked for the €50 per day IFI permits of which no supporting DGAF or club angler had purchased as they explained that this issue was in legal dispute n the courts. The IFI staff exchanged comments with the anglers and proceeded to attempt to take their rods and equipment and in the process allegedly adopted physical abuse on the three anglers by twisting their arms and squeezing their wrists and to forcefully seize several rods, reels, landing nets and salmon which were legally tagged and in compliance with the fishery laws. As we issue this statement at 4pm, one angler is on his way to the A&E of LGH with an injured and suspected dislocated shoulder.

Some fishery officers were observed recording video evidence and at one point Garda members saw it necessary to intervene and ordered the fishery officers to refrain from further force and to step back as one angler was nearly shoved into the river. This very heavy handed and disgraceful behaviour by our state fishery protection staff that law abiding anglers normally cooperate with and assist on a dialy basis. This incident is the latest from Ballyshannon IFI fishery staff that confirms we are dealing with a staff unit that are out of control and further damages the excellent relationaship normally enjoyed between anglers and state to improve and enhance fisheries.
Following a review of this most disturbing incident, The DGAF will issue formal complaints through their legal representatives in the coming days. Howwever, the Executive Committee of the Donegal Game Anglers Association with the full support of a national federations TAFI and FISSTA representing over 60,000 anglers nationally, express their determination to continue to exercise their rights to fish more than ever and are looking forward to the next outing to fish our river again.

Background to the Gweebara River Protest- County Donegal.
The Gweebara is a spring salmon river in Co Donegal. It is approximately sixteen miles long, entering the sea at a village called Doohary. A famous High Court case was fought in 1906 which resulted in the local netsmen on the estuary winning the rights to fish from Marquis Connyngham and Lord Mayo.
Since that time the river has been open to all anglers, providing that they possessed a State license. In that year the Northern Regional Fishery Board laid claim to the river and took it into state control, claiming that it owned all the fishing rights along its’ entire length. The Board then colluded with a group of people to set up an angling club, commencing with a small membership of approximately ten people. This membership was comprised of holiday home owners and others from outside the district, along with the netsmen who fished the estuary. The elected secretary of this group was not and is not an angler.
Whenever anglers from nearby villages, particularly Fintown and the Rosses, who had fished the river for decades, applied for membership they were refused on the basis that they were not within the selected catchment. The new club signed an agreement with the Fishery Board, in which it accepted conditions that totally mitigated against local anglers, even members, in terms of access to the river. For example, during the spring run period, visiting anglers have 19 rods on the river on Thur – Sunday; members have 3 rods. The position is reversed on Mon –Wednesday of each weeek. So if you wish to fish your local river you most likely have to take days off work. Some anglers who have fished the river for over 50 years have been refused membership and now have to pay a daily permit which will increase once this plan is in place.
The clubs within the Donegal Game Angling Federation (DGAF) protested the moment this agreement, which was negotiated in secret, became known. In response, the Board immediately imposed a boycott on the new Federation Committee and has refused to meet with the anglers representative body for almost three years, ignoring the fact that the affiliated clubs wrote letters asking that they be represented by the Federation. In addition the Board refused to issue a copy of the agreement to the Federation and has also ignored requests from the Federations’ solicitors to provide evidence of their ownership of the fishing rights. In actual fact, following the signing of the agreement, the Board despatched two people around the local landowners, persuading them to sign over their rights on the river for periods up to ten years. At a subsequent local meeting with the Board CEO and his staff, the land owners suggested that the deal should be set aside and a new approach be adopted. The Fishery Board personnel refused and left the meeting, stating that “ the agreement stood”.
The anger was such that local anglers defied the Board and protested by fishing the river without purchasing the new permit and many are being prosecuted at this point in time. The Chairman of the Federation, at the behest of the clubs, has made several attempts to engage the Board in dialogue. All requests were met with silence but instead, in August, the Board applied to the High Court in Dublin for injunctions against named anglers and officers of the Federation.
This action by the Board, designed to put the voluntary organisation in extreme financial difficulty, had to be defended by the Federation. The High Court judge opened the case by asking had there been any attempt to resolve this dispute through dialogue at local level. Following the arguments presented, the Judge refused to injunct the anglers and instead he appointed a mediator, informing both sides that they would be well advised to use his services or face even further “ruinous costs”.
That is the position that pertains today. Mediation had been accepted by both sides, something that could have happened three years ago had the Board not chosen to act in a very undemocratic way and before massive costs were incurred on both sides. The Federation feels totally vindicated in that all it ever wanted was the opportunity to present its case. However, that is small consolation in light of the financial burden that it now faces as their Supreme Court appeal is now underway to defend an angling right to waters that has been fished for generations. The national groundwell of support for the Rosses and Fintown Angling Clubs campaign under the direction of the Donegal Game Anglers Federation is viewed as a test case by the national federations of TAFI and FISSTA’s 60,000 strong angling membership to resist the undemining of our volunteer club management of their own local waters on every river in Ireland.

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