• April 21, 2015


The terrible price of ‘war games’ is played out in fishing grounds over three decades.

Northern Ireland news source the ‘Down News’ reports today that Assembly Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neil is determined to get answers (starting with the Ministry of Defence) about the incident last week where a Ardglass motor fishing vessel (MFV) the Karen was snagged by a submarine off the West coast of the Isle of Man.

History tells us that the Minister will have to be doggedly determined to breach the web of intrigue that the MOD and associated Ministries weave round the submarine operations on the Royal Navy and NATO allies.

When the Celtic League campaigned on this issue for over twenty five years we had no more relentless parliamentary friend then George Foulkes MP (now Lord Foulkes).

We catalogued the incidents and George Foulkes (and others) asked the questions but always the brick wall of officialdom refused to yield.

In 1991 Foulkes pressed the Secretary of State for Transport (Patrick McLoughlin) in relation to the losses of the fishing vessels (a) Girl Fiona, (b) Inspire, (c) Alert II, (d) Boy Shaun236W (e) Sylvia Marita, (f) Jake II, (g) Tarradale II, (h) Pearl, (i) Mhari L and (j) South Stack to find out if Marine Accident Investigation Board inquiries had been published. McLoughlin answered all incidents occurred prior to 1989 and there was no requirement before that date for publication. The losses – many suspicious – had resulted in well over 20 deaths

McLouglin was a bit more forthcoming (if unapologetic) about the number of Submarine-MFV incidents reported confirming a staggering 18 incidents in two years (one of these was the Antares on which four men died).

However, official indifference was not limited to withholding statistics.

One of the most difficult parts of the campaign we ran was communicating with relatives of those lost in suspicious sinkings, such as relatives of those lost on the Mhari L or the widow of a fisherman lost on the Inspire who died when the MFV Inspire was swamped by a massive wave caused (almost certainly) by a British submarine travelling down the Welsh Coast in a semi submerged state.

Bizarrely in the same year (1988) as the Inspire loss the British submarine HMS Conqueror travelling in a semi submerged state (conning tower only above the water) sank the yacht Dalraida in the North Channel the incident was owned up to because it turned out the Dalraida was  carrying out clandestine duties with SBS (Royal Marine – Special Boat Squadron) personnel – it was in military parlance an ‘own goal’!

Relatives understandably found it difficult to come to terms with there being no answers but in some instances were tenaciously determined. The fisherman’s widow fought the issue through the courts until a second inquest determined her husband had been unlawfully killed.

Again George Foulkes pressed the issue in Parliament;

Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has regarding the verdict of the jury in relation to the sinking of the Inspire and the possibility of submarine involvement; what information he has concerning activities of (a) United Kingdom, (b) NATO and (c) other countries’ submarines in the area at the date and time in question; what action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

I understand that the jury at the inquest returned a verdict of death by unlawful killing. As was made clear in the evidence given, there were no Royal Navy or NATO submarines in Cardigan bay or the Irish Sea on the day in question. Nor, to the best of our knowledge, were there any submarines belonging to other nations in the area at the time. I therefore see no need for the Ministry of Defence to take any action as a result of the inquest.”

There was however evidence of RN submarines in the area: one had been seen off Fishguard shortly after the Inspire was lost.

The cover ups go on one of the first major losses we investigated, the loss of the Breton trawler Cite D’Aleth off Wexford in 1983, in which all the crew were lost leading the families to campaign and hope for years, but no answers came.

Two decades later another Breton trawler was mysteriously lost off the Lizard, this time the Bugaled Breizh overwhelmed literally in seconds. Well equipped experienced crew all perished. Since then and for ten years now their family like the family of the crew of the Cite D’Aleth search for answers. Doors are closed, inquiries stymied, and no answers are forthcoming.

Recently we were contacted by the grandchild of a fishermen lost in a well publicised tragedy over thirty years ago. Three generations on people are still looking; still no answers

As submarine ‘war games’ have played out around our shores over three decades fishing communities have paid a terrible price. It may be a ‘game’ of cat and mouse to NATO and their adversaries of the Russian Federation but it’s no ‘game’ to those who have died and the relatives of those drowned who have to carry the terrible burden of both loss and uncertainty.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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