Subs musn’t imperil NI fleet: Campbell

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DUP MLA Gregory Campbell wants assurances from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that Royal Navy submarines won’t imperil the safety of the Northern Ireland trawler fleet in future.

He asked Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill if she had contacted the Government over an incident in April, when a submarine snagged the nets of the trawler, Karen, off the County Down coast.

The MoD initially said no submarine was involved but recently admitted that one was.

Mr Campbell asked the Minister what contact she had had with the MoD to ensure there is no repetition of the incident.

She replied: “At the time of the incident I visited the owner and skipper of the trawler Karen to see for myself the damage to their vessel and the effect it had on those involved.

“I wrote to the British Secretary of State on April 17 asking the matter to be fully investigated and requested a full report.

“On May 13 I followed up with a letter to the British Minister for Transport asking that his Department’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch determine who was responsible and ensure the incident could not occur again.

“The British Minister of the Armed Forces twice stated in the House of Commons during the summer that a Royal Navy submarine was not involved. However on September 7, I received a letter from that Minister stating that new information confirmed that a Royal Navy submarine was in fact involved and we had a Written Ministerial Statement to that effect on the same day.

“I issued a statement on that date outlining how appalled I was about this revelation, asking why it had taken five months for the British Ministry of Defence to admit responsibility and on September 14, I wrote to the British Minister of the Armed Forces stating that there appeared to be conflicting evidence of this incident and asked that I was fully briefed on the matter and given a full report.

“I also stated that to ensure there could be no repetition of the accident, the Fishing Industry Safety Group be approached with all the information and bring forward recommendations with fishing industry endorsement. I will continue to prioritise the safety of our fishing fleet in the time ahead to ensure there is no repetition of this incident.”