DONEGAL fishing vessels are entitled to unrestricted access to the coast around Londonderry and the rest of Northern Ireland’s coastal waters under a neighbourly agreement signed by officals of Terence O’Neill’s Government back in 1965.
Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill said the Voisinage Agreement had its roots in the London Fisheries Convention of 1964.
“A Voisinage Agreement was made between the British and Irish governments in the form of an exchange of letters between officials in the Dublin and Belfast Departments of Agriculture in 1965,” she said.
The exchange would have been, of course, between the Northern Ireland Government and the Dublin Government.
“The letter from the Irish Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on 13 September 1965 stated, in keeping with the rules for
south of Ireland vessels, that our vessels up to 75 feet overall length would have unrestricted access within the Irish inner six mile zone and any of our vessels that exceeded 75 and up to 90 feet would require a permit from the Irish authorities,” she explained.
She explained that the London Fisheries Convention of 1964 effectively resulted in a European agreement which established exclusive fisheries rights within six nautical miles for coastal states.
The Convention also allowed for previous access by other states inside six miles to continue by way of voisinage arrange.
Although Mrs O’Neill said the agreement was between the British and Irish Government’s it was a predecessor, Harry West’s, officials who did the negotiations leading to the exchange, on behalf of her namesake’s Government of 1965.