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How A Group Of Stubborn Irish Fisherman Stood Up To Russia’s Navy — And Won

Photo: Youtube
Irish Fishing Boat

Tensions are high between east and west again over the issue of Russian military build-up on the borders of Ukraine. Intelligence services warn that an incident is likely, possibly even a fake one to be used as justification for a Russian invasion.

Amid the talk of military build-up, eroding diplomacy and nuclear-armed nations going to war are… fishermen.

Irish fisherman took action against a Russian navy who were training in their fishing waters.

This is, in fact, not a joke and, according to the Irish fishermen, it’s a matter of their livelihood and the health of marine creatures.

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This all started when the Russian navy planned to host live-fire exercises. The maneuvers were meant to be performed 150 miles off of the Irish coast in Ireland’s Economic Exclusive Zone.

Fishermen in a small community in southern Ireland called Castletownbere were warned that the exercises would involve “the use of naval artillery and launching of rockets” and posed a grave risk to anyone that was in the area of the operation.

Understandably, this news concerned the fishermen.

One of the fishermen actually went to the Russian ambassador to Ireland to plead their case.

Now, it’s one thing to kindly ask the foreign diplomat not to fire off weapons of war and mass death in your fishing area, it’s entirely another to tell that diplomat that you intend to fish there, come Hell or high explosive.

And that’s exactly what the fishermen did and the Russian diplomat responded by discouraging such reckless behavior, saying, “refrain from any provocative actions which might endanger all involved.”

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Naturally, a bunch of fishing boats would absolutely be in extreme danger if caught in the middle of a live-fire exercise between modern warships, but the fishermen of Castletownbere seemed intent to do it regardless. A little bit of military ordinance wasn’t going to put a damper on a day of fishing.

Russian authorities decided not to hold their live-fire exercise in the fishing waters.

Incredibly, Russian authorities relented in a “gesture of goodwill,” specifically naming the local fishing industry as a reason for their decision during negotiations with the Irish government.

As stalwart as the fishermen were they were certainly surprised by the outcome.

One fisherman named Patrick Murphy said of the situation, “I'm shocked, really… I didn't think that little old us ... would have an impact on international diplomacy… You wouldn't expect the Russian nation to listen to a couple of fishermen.”

The fishermen of Castletownbere really do believe that it was their pleas that helped make a difference and convince the Russian government to move it’s exercises elsewhere.

Murphy, as well as the rest of the fishermen, are clearly pleased with the outcome, saying,  “Doesn't it show that a simple little conversation can change things? It's huge. The power of words is a lot better than the power of the gun. I'm chuffed.”

While international tensions remain high, let this be a reminder that we can get along, no one is so small that they deserve to be squashed or ignored. An entire naval exercise was displaced when a couple of fishermen just asked nicely.

“Follow the fish and make a living. That's all we want to do.”

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.