Donegal fishing vessel blocked at Rockall by Marine Scotland patrol boat

Brexit dispute takes to the high seas

Donegal fishing vessel blocked at Rockall by Marine Scotland patrol boat

Rockall, the uninhabitable granite islet which is at the centre of another fishing row

A Donegal fishing vessel has been prevented from entering the waters around Rockall.

The Greencastle-based Northern Celt was boarded and its skipper instructed that he can no longer fish within 12 nautical miles of the disputed rocky outcrop in the North Atlantic. as a result of Brexit.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of the incident and is in contact with the UK and Scottish authorities.

This uninhabitable granite islet, which the United Kingdom has claimed since 1955 and incorporated it as a part of Scotland in 1972, is expected to be the scene of much angst in the coming weeks and months for fishermen of a number of nationalities.

Its approximate distances from the closest islands in each direction are: 301.3 kilometres (187.2 miles; 162.7 nautical miles) west of Soay, Scotland; 423.2 kilometres (263.0 miles; 228.5 nautical miles) north-west of Tory Island; and 700 kilometres (430 mi; 380 nmi) south of Iceland.

The nearest permanently inhabited place is North Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, 370 kilometres (230 mi; 200 nmi) to the east.

The United Kingdom claimed Rockall in 1955 and incorporated it as a part of Scotland in 1972.

RTE reported this evening that the vessel, the Northern Celt has been at sea since last week, but not in its normal fishing grounds around Rockall.

The fisheries patrol vessel, the Jura, arrived in the area on January 1, the day after the UK's Brexit transition period ended.

Members of its crew boarded the Northern Celt yesterday as it prepared to cast its nets.

"We were fishing in Rockall and members of the crew from the Jura boarded us. They informed us that we could no longer fish inside the 12-mile limit of Rockall," skipper Adrian McClenaghan told RTÉ News.

The skipper was issued with a temporary licence to fish in UK waters, with the stipulation that, as an "EU Vessel", it is not authorised to fish within 12 nautical miles of Rockall.

The Scottish patrol vessel has remained in the area.

Mr McClenaghan has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs about the issue.

He employs nine crew members and said he cannot afford not to fish in the disputed waters as they account for around 30% of his annual catch.

"The Scottish navy are continuing to patrol the 12-mile limit and we're waiting on further instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs on what their next move will be," Mr McClenaghan said.

In a statement to RTÉ News, the Department of Foreign Affairs said: "We aware of contact between an Irish fishing vessel and a Marine Scotland patrol vessel yesterday, January 4.

"We are in contact with the Scottish and UK authorities on this."

This is not the firs time that there has been a dispute over the waters around ere has been a long running dispute over Rockall.

The UK claims sovereignty, but the Irish Government refuses to recognise the territorial claim.

The Northern Celt was at the eye of a similar political storm in June 2019 when the Scottish government imposed a ban on Irish vessels fishing within 12 miles of the uninhabited islet.

That dispute was resolved after discussions involving the Department of Foreign Affairs, but it appears Scotland is again laying claim to Rockall.

Political reaction is expected shortly.

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