A sea of troubles: The Coast Road, by Alan Murrin, reviewed

Contemporary Irish writers have a knack of making their recent past feel very foreign. Clare Keegan’s Small Things Like These is set in 1985, but the horrors she reveals about one of Ireland’s Magdalene laundries seem more like ancient history. Alan Murrin pulls off something similar in The Coast Road, where in late 1994 divorce is still illegal in Ireland, unlike the rest of Europe. Izzy Keaveney, a housewife with two teenage children, ‘has the depression’ and has dragged herself to Sunday morning mass despite a hangover. She spent the previous evening at a dinner-dance, listening to her politician husband James give a talk about the importance of business in

Courage on the high seas

The Shetland Islands and the Faroes may seem to be somewhere out there in distant waters, marginal and in the greater scheme of things not very important in the history of the world. But from a maritime perspective it is precisely the fact that they are suspended in mid-ocean, surrounded by water that teems with fish (if one knows where to look) that has given them a role in human history out of all proportion to their size. In his fascinating account of the part played by these islands in the harvesting of cod and herring from the North Atlantic, John Goodlad raises vital questions about the world’s food supplies.

How not to fish

After two nights at Le Grau-du-Roi (the King’s Pond) and a night spent within the medieval walls of Aigues-Mortes (Stagnant Waters) we drove north-west to our Remainer friend’s castle perched on the bank of the river Lot. Then duty called her and Catriona returned to Provence and I stayed on for a week to try to recoup a modicum of strength with a daily invalid regime of gentle breaststroke in a swimming pool sheltered by old walls and toddling unsteadily about in the sunny gardens, sometimes putting out my arms for balance like a tightrope walker. Any time I felt like it, I could then mount the 17th-century stone staircase

Letters: In defence of Land Rovers

How to stay safe Sir: Mary Wakefield is correct to highlight the opprobrium heaped on anyone who suggests sensible safety advice to women (‘Don’t mix up murder and hate crime’, 2 October). It has long been the case that this is the one area where it is impossible to give crime prevention information without stirring up a hornet’s nest. Motorists are constantly told not to leave valuables on display when they park their cars, as they may return to find their windows broken and the articles stolen. No one claims that motorists are being ‘victim shamed’ when given this advice, even though the police may well roll their eyes when

There’s one upside to having Parkinson’s disease

I am just back from my final salmon fishing trip of the year. I have never had a worse season and have hardly cast a line. This autumn’s almost unprecedented sunshine has been terrible for fishing; the river Tweed had been reduced to a dribble, through which even Alex Salmond could easily lead an invasion force from Scotland to England while wearing a three-piece suit. I returned to find a letter from Salmon & Trout Conservation lying on the mat. It is bizarre that the only friends these fish have are those who want to stick a hook in them. The chief executive sounded at his wits’ end as he

Could crabs be next on the menu for a Defra ban?

It has been a difficult 2021 for the British shellfish industry. Since the end of the Brexit transition period, fishermen have had to contend with new rules which mean that live mussels, cockles, oysters and other shellfish caught in most of the UK’s waters are no longer allowed to enter the EU. Legal action against the government has been mooted, with environment secretary George Eustice accused of misleading the industry over its post-Brexit arrangements. Given this context and the fact many fishermen live in Tory coastal seats, you might have thought the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) would be doing all it can to reassure the industry. So Mr

Macron is playing politics in the Channel

The stand-off between France and Britain has escalated into something altogether more serious. Yesterday, the French maritime minister called for Jersey’s electricity supply to be cut off in response to a dispute over fishing rights. Egged on by French officials, around 80 boats began blockading the port of St Helier this morning in a move that is reminiscent of Ursula von der Leyen’s aborted plans for a hard Irish border to stop the flow of vaccines into the UK. Now there are scenes of British Navy vessels approaching the fishing boats as French ships chart a course for the Channel island. Some on the Continent are claiming that the stand-off

Katy Balls

Why Boris could benefit from the Jersey fishing dispute

It’s polling day for the local elections but the focus of the government is on Jersey, where a row has broken out over post-Brexit fishing rights. After 80 French boats gathered at St Helier in protest over new licences required for fishing there, the UK hit back by sending two British naval patrol vessels as a precautionary measure. Now the French government has sent naval ships of its own and a war of words is underway between the two sides. The European Commission has called for calm but the situation remains unstable to say the least France’s Sea Minister Annick Girardin was the first to up the ante – suggesting

What Seaspiracy gets right and wrong about eating fish

Who will have a fishy on a little dishy/Who will have a fishy/When the boats come in? Far fewer of us, probably, after the new Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy, 90 minutes of devastating criticism of the fishing industry. Among the more eyecatching assertions is that the oceans will be empty of fish by 2048 and that there is no such thing as sustainable fish. The producer is a vegan called Kip Anderson who produced a similar critique of the meat industry, Cowspiracy. It doesn’t trip off the tongue, but the gist is the same: stop eating meat and fish. It’s contention that the seas will be empty by 2048 has been

Where to order your post-Brexit fish

It’s Lent, and you know what that means? Fish, that’s what. Once, the point of the whole fast and abstinence thing was to eschew meat, which meant eating fish instead. Indeed, the fish-fasting association was so important for the fishing industry that when the Reformation came, much Catholic practice was jettisoned, but not the obligation to eat fish in Lent. Now, there’s a further rationale, two in fact. Brexit, plus Covid, a double whammy for the industry. Post Brexit, there are endless impediments to exporting to the EU, formerly an enthusiastic taker of British fish and shellfish, unless suppliers are lucky enough to be part of a bigger consortium which

Will Boris’s Brexit deal sail through the Commons?

After Boris Johnson waxed lyrical about his Brexit deal in today’s Downing Street press conference, it’s now over to MPs to give their verdict. During the press conference announcing the terms of the deal agreed between the UK and EU, the Prime Minister confirmed that the government plans to put the deal to a vote on 30 December. MPs have already voiced concerns about the lack of time for proper scrutiny – and the text of the full deal (500 pages plus another 1,000 in annexes) is still to be published. But, despite this, the initial signs are promising for the government. Prior to finalising the deal this afternoon, the Prime

Fishing could sink the Brexit negotiations

Throughout the Brexit talks it has been declared that the deal wouldn’t fall over fish. But that is now looking increasingly likely. The two sides remain far apart on the subject and time is running short. Fishing is not the only issue, there are still some disagreements over the Commission’s desire to exempt itself and the European Investment Bank from the subsidy control provisions of the agreement when the UK would have no such carve out. But fish is the most problematic area. Johnson is prepared to leave without a deal over the fishing issue The EU, as Michel Barnier made clear this morning, are insisting on an fisheries transition

Fishing is now the sole major obstacle to a Brexit deal

Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson spoke this evening to try and give the negotiations a shove. The statement that the Commission president has released after their call makes clear that fishing is now the biggest obstacle to a deal. She says ‘big differences remain to be bridged, particularly on fisheries. Bridging them will be very challenging’. The Number 10 statement is more downbeat. In a clear attempt to pile on pressure, it declares that ‘Time was very short and it now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.’ It says that the ‘UK could not accept a situation where it

Boris Johnson has allowed himself to be snookered by the EU

The UK-EU trade negotiations have heated up again, albeit from a very cold state. Boris seems to have conceded ground on the ‘evolution clause’ to the European Union, making a path to an agreement on the level playing field issues at least plausible. The UK has accepted that divergence should come at some cost — although the details of how that cost should be managed appear to still be a live issue. With that comes the last hurdle: fishing. Boris Johnson has allowed himself to be snookered by the EU. More than anything else I could point to, leaving fishing to the very end demonstrates the folly of Johnson’s overall

Wrecking the Brexit talks won’t help our fishermen

‘Every country has a political problem with its fishermen,’ wrote Peter Walker, the Conservative minister who negotiated the first effective EU-UK fishing deal in 1983. ‘Everyone sympathises with the tough life they lead. They all want to take as much fish as they can.’ And here’s Michel Barnier, still speaking as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator in Dublin last week despite rumours he’s about to be sidelined: ‘Without a long-term, fair and sustainable solution on fisheries, there will simply be no new economic partnership with the UK.’ Those quotes encapsulate the bizarre fact that an industry which contributes just £1.4 billion to UK GDP stands, alongside the Northern Ireland border