The first Irish skipper to return from Rockall since a fishing row erupted has said he does not believe it will be resolved without an arrest.

Frank McClenaghan also said warnings of arrest were a "political stunt" and insisted he would not be driven from the lucrative waters around Rockall by any threat.

The Scottish and Irish Irish governments have agreed to "intensify" discussions to resolve the row over fishing around Rockall, an uninhabitable granite islet in the North Atlantic.

READ MORE: Scotland and Ireland in "intensified engagement" over Rockall fishing row

It comes as at least one fishing group in Ireland said that Irish boats fishing off the 100 foot-wide eroded volcano that lies 260 miles west of the Western Isles have a legal right to fish there, and will continue to do so.


Irish Government ministers received a letter from Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, last week stating that protection vessels will be deployed to take "enforcement action" against Irish vessels found fishing within 12 miles of Rockall from this weekend onwards.

Scottish Government figures show incursions into the waters around Rockall had increased from 15 in 2015 to 33 in 2016 and 94 in 2017.

There was a slight decrease in 2018 due to changes in fishing quotas and the absence of some fish, she said.

READ MORE: Irish fishermen defiant after Scottish Government 'arrest' warning in Rockall dispute

The Scottish Government raised the issue of access to the 12 mile area around Rockall for the first time in 2017, following the Brexit Referendum.

The Irish Government has always said it does not recognise its claim over the long-disputed territory.


Mr McLenaghan, who skippers the trawler the Foyle Warrior out of Greencastle, County Donegal, said: “So far the Government has said they’ve given their full financial and legal backing to any boat that is detailed in Rockall, and I think having talks is the right way to sort it out.

“I do think it will be resolved, but I’m also fearful enough of what could happen if talks break down. I’m not 100 per cent sure it won’t be resolved without the Scotch arresting a boat."

READ MORE: Ireland threatens EU court action in fishing dispute with Scotland over Rockall

He said there were six boats out of Greencastle, and they were all reliant on Rockall.

His boat had been boarded and inspected “regularly” by Scottish fishery patrol boats – within a 12-mile exclusion zone – and “there was never an issue”.

“Rockall is massively important to us. We do a lot of our fishing there every year, and it would be as massive loss to us and many other Irish vessels if we weren’t allowed to go back to fish there," he said.

“The [Irish] Government are saying they’ll back the fishermen, but if I’m arrested it’ll be me has the court case, not the Government."

He added: “I’d be very friendly with Scottish fishermen as well, they fish up at Rockall too, and there’s never been an issue, but I think this is... a political stunt because they’ve lost the support of the fishermen and they didn’t realise how far it was going to go.”

Meanwhile, Clive Symmons, of Trinity College Dublin, said Irish ministers were “incorrect” to assert that the Scottish government had no basis for excluding Irish fishermen from the islet’s waters.

Ireland has no “leg to stand on” in the issue and Scotland was “within its rights” to threaten to enforce them, he said.

Ronán Long, who is chairman of ocean governance and law of the sea at the World Maritime University, agreed.