The Celtic League has sought clarification from the MOD over an incident off Donegal this month in which a RN warship ordered an Irish fishing vessel to leave waters in which it was conducting an exercise with a submarine. The Irish fisherman aver the area was in Irish territorial seas.
The League has asked Secretary of State Ben Wallace about the frequency of use of PEXA (Practice and Exercise Areas) areas which abut Irish waters off Donegal.
In a separate query the League questions the wisdom of having designated PEXA areas so close to fishing grounds and also in the North Channel where an RN submarine almost collided with a ferry between Belfast and SW Scotland.
The correspondence to the Minister is set out below:
“Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP
Secretary of State for Defence
MOD, Main Building
31st July 2020
I write with reference to the incident off Donegal when a British warship HMS Lancaster instructed a Irish Motor Fishing Vessel to move because a naval exercise involving ‘Lancaster’ and a RN submarine was in progress. Reports indicate this took place in Irish waters.
I note that the Royal Navy designate a number of military exercise areas off the north of Island specifically PEXA numbers 52.53 and 64 that abut Donegal and the seas thereof.
Can I ask how many military exercises warships and submarines have been held in these areas in recent years? Further could I ask if the United Kingdom MOD has given any thought to better delineating these exercise areas so as to alleviate possible hazard to mariners from both the 26 County Republic of Ireland and the six counties of the North?
Finally given the number of exercise areas of the north of Ireland and also western Scotland is there a need to retain the areas listed exercise purposes in waters heavily used by both MFVs and other commercial seafarers.
I feel sure I do not have to point out to you the recent report on an incident in the North Channel between an RN submarine and a Ferry which could so easily have resulted in tragedy.
J B Mofffatt (Mr)
Assistant General Secretary”
Image: HMS Lancaster – Inset; Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP UK Defence Minister
Celtic League (31st July 2020)