SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has said that the continued failure of the Executive to support Lough Neagh fishermen affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is a disgrace. The Mid Ulster MLA questioned both the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (AERA) and the Minister for Finance in the Assembly this week about the lack of financial support for the sector.
Mr McGlone said, “The continued failure to provide financial support to Lough Neagh fishermen affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is an absolute disgrace.
“I have raised this issue with the AERA Minister and departmental officials repeatedly in the Assembly and Committee over a long number of months, including in the Assembly this week.
“There have been numerous updates to the Committee regarding COVID support for Lough Neagh fishermen, the most recent of which was that it had been cleared by the Departmental Solicitor’s Office and by the Department of Finance.
“Despite this neither the Finance Minster nor the AERA Minister could answer my questions this week on when the payments would be made.
“The scheme has apparently cleared every hurdle required expect the signature of the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. Yet he still will not provide a date for the delivery of the necessary financial support for these fishermen.
“There is no justification for the length of time it is taking to finalise the scheme. People were promised that this support would come last summer; they anticipated that it would definitely be there in the autumn; some thought that at least they would be given something for Christmas; but it never arrived.
“Many of those fishing families are on relatively low incomes, and they need that support. It is abysmal and awful that people cannot get the money that is due to them and which was promised to them.
“The Minister cannot continue to delay the implementation of this much needed financial support scheme for Lough Neagh fishermen.
“I will continue to raise this issue with the Minister until the financial support that has been promised to this sector is delivered.”