The Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has welcomed the move to pay compensation to the Byrne family in Donegal under the “Lost at Sea” scheme. Carthy commended the family members who have campaigned for 14 years to secure compensation owed to them as a result of the deaths of their loved ones in 1981.
The scheme, which was set up to compensate long-standing fishing families through the provision of valuable tonnage quota, led to accusations against the Fianna Fáil Minister Frank Fahy, who established the scheme, who was suspected by many of tailoring the scheme towards select constituents. A 2009 Ombudsman investigation into the scheme found that a selective advertisement campaign had been run resulting in 75% of the fund going to just two of Fahy’s constituents.
Speaking this week, Matt Carthy said:
“I want to extend my congratulations to the Byrne family for the sheer determination and perseverance they exhibited in seeing through their campaign against successive Irish Governments on the Lost at Sea Scheme. I am delighted that they have now finally received the compensation that was legislatively owed to them and hope that this will close what I am sure has been a difficult, and at times frustrating, case.
“The Byrnes, who tragically lost two members of their family, 3 crew members and their entire livelihood had been fighting against their exclusion from the scheme for over 3 decades.
“I had the opportunity to support their case when it came to the European Parliament for the second time last year, and called full payment of the judgement of €245,570 made by the Ombudswoman to be made to the family.
“I further called for the European Commission to immediately look into the scheme, something they had refused to do on the basis that the Irish Government never notified them of its existence. In fact, to this day, the Committee of Petitions is still waiting to receive replies to letters sent on behalf of the Byrne family one and a half years ago. The Minister took three years to reply to the first letter.
“The Byrne family have campaigned tirelessly for the implementation of the Ombudswoman’s 2009 findings, and have utilised every possible avenue available to them to rectify the injustices of this corrupt scheme.
“In 2010 Fianna Fáil used the party whip to vote down a proposal to implement the proposals of the Ombudsman at the Oireachtas Agriculture committee. This compounded the injustice and forced Winifred Byrne and her family to bring the issue to Europe. In short, the saga was a perfect example of the treatment of the state towards victims and their families.
“This case highlights the need ongoing need for transparency throughout Government Departments, Agencies and top level civil servants. It has taken more than three decades for the Byrne family to receive justice. There remain daily reminders of a genuine lack of accountability and transparency from public institutions.
“Ongoing Cervical Check, Garda Whistleblowing and Media Merger knowledge issues show that the current Government, like its predecessors, is failing to achieve standards that should be commonplace when it comes to transparency.
“In this instance it was the resolve of the Byrne family that led to a resolution, albeit far too late. I commend them for their efforts.”