Jailing of violent poachers ‘positive’
FISHERIES Minister Michelle O’Neill welcomed as a “positive step” the imprisonment of poachers who seriously assaulted and hospitalised two Loughs Agency staff in Lifford.
The Minister said it was a “ridiculous” situation when poachers were being apprehended with clubs with nails in them for attacking staff.
She said the issue was discussed at a recent meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in Londonderry, which was attended by Ms O’Neill and Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland and the Irish Minister for Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, and the Irish Minister of State for Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd TD.
“We welcomed the development of a formal operational plan with the PSNI and an Garda Síochána to deal with assaults on agency staff, and we expressed our concern at two recent serious assaults in the Lifford area,” she said in a statement to MLAs at Stormont.
“Those assaults resulted in two members of staff being hospitalised. However, the chief executive (of the Loughs Agency, Derick Henderson) reported at the meeting that both staff members had recovered and had resumed their duties.
“The agency reported that, with support from an Garda Síochána, court injunctions were obtained against two of the principal offenders, banning them from the banks of the Rivers Foyle, Finn and Mourne and from their having any contact with the agency’s fisheries protection staff.”
Asked how many Loughs Agency staff had been assaulted and how many people had been convicted as result, she said: “First, I condemn the attacks on agency staff.
“In my statement, I referred to two recent attacks, and, since the meeting, I have been informed that the people involved received a custodial sentence. That is a positive step.
“I took up the issue with the Minister of Justice after the previous debate, particularly the fact that repeat offenders are not dealt with sufficiently by the justice system. I hope that the impact of those custodial sentences will be to act as a deterrent.”
She said the operational plan between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI has now been signed.
“I have regular meetings with the Chief Constable of the PSNI to discuss rural issues in general, and I took this issue to him on the back of a lot of discussions with the Committee and Members of the House. I am pleased that a lot of positive action has been taken, and I hope that it acts as a deterrent,” she said.
The Minister said the seizure of vehicles, boats and nets have taken place and that this was very positive.
“Loughs Agency staff have seized, for example, clubs with nails in them for attacking staff - that is ridiculous. We have to come down heavily on the people involved, because staff going out to do a day or night’s work should not have to fear for their safety,” she said.
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Weather for Londonderry
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
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