A Donegal Independent candidate has warned that tensions could flare up over the waters of Rockall as a potential Brexit deal is discussed between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Arthur McGuinness, who is running in Saturday's General Election, said that he believes that Rockall should be part of the upcoming Brexit discussions between the Irish and British governments.
Speaking to Highland Radio, McGuinness said that dormant tensions between Irish and Scottish fishermen could flare up again as the governments attempt to strike a deal. He said that he was also worried that Donegal fishermen would be forgotten in any deal made.
Rockall, a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, was the center of controversy last June when Irish and Scottish fishermen clashed over the territory.
The island is home to lucrative fishing grounds and possible gas and oil deposits. Rockall fishing is reportedly a multi-million-pound industry with a large supply of haddock, monkfish, and squid.
Last summer, Scottish authorities claimed that Rockall was a UK territory and attempted to prevent Irish fishermen from coming within the 12-mile international limit.
The Irish government, on the other hand, contended that the island was not subject to an international boundary as it was simply a large, uninhabitable rock in the middle of the ocean.
Irish claims are backed up by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) 1982. The law states that “Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.”
Consequently, Irish boats have fished in the area for well over 30 years.
The Scottish government, in turn, claimed that it has never been legal for other nations to fish within 12 miles of the islet.
The UK first claimed ownership of Rockall in 1955, but Ireland, Iceland, and Denmark have long challenged that ownership.
Irish Tanáiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Simon Coveney took a firm stance on the issue in June and said that Ireland had never recognized British claims to the island.
"We have never recognized UK sovereignty over Rockall and accordingly, we have not recognized a territorial sea around it either. We have tried to work positively with the Scottish authorities and to deal with sensitive issues that flow from it in a spirit of kinship and collaboration," Coveney said in June.
Scotland's Fisheries Minister Fergus Ewing told BBC Scotland in June: "This is a routine enforcement matter to ensure that illegal activity within the UK's territorial waters, namely within a radius of 12 miles of the islet of Rockall, ceases.
"We have been engaging with the Irish government for a considerable length of time because we would prefer that this matter is resolved by discussion and negotiation amicably, and that remains the case."