Aran Woman's Insight Into Life as Trawler SkipperJuly 17, 2008 - 10:46am
THERE are few who would ever describe their job as “a vocation”, but Cliona Conneely uses the expression and she means it. She loves being at sea. For 15 years, she has formed a life for herself around the demands of the fishing lifestyle. She has sacrificed much for her work out of respect for a family tradition and out of a deep affection for the skill of the work. But now, it is all slipping away.
When we speak on the phone, Cliona is on twenty hour watch aboard her boat, the Maggie C. She and five crew members are in the Irish Sea fishing for prawns. It will be some days before she returns to her home on Inis Mór, and she is not sure if she will make it home for her only child’s first birthday.
Much has been said about the fishing industry in Ireland in the past few months, but to speak to Cliona is to finally understand the bottom line on this complicated saga. The fishing industry in this country is beleaguered. Those who are still struggling to keep it alive feel as though they have been victimised by the European Union and let down by the Irish government.
Cliona is emotional on the phone when she speaks of the hardship of recent years, the current precarious state of the Irish fishing industry, and the major uncertainty of the future of the industry. She doesn’t want to talk about herself too much – understandably tired of being held up as some kind of heroine for being the country’s only female skipper – but her story is one that people need to hear.
She entered the fishing life because...