British authorities have been urged to abandon their claim to the remote rocky outcrop of Rockall after an awkward incident on Monday in which a Scottish patrol boat boarded an Irish fishing vessel.
A Marine Scotland boat sought to stop the Donegal-based Northern Celt from entering the waters. According to Irish broadcaster RTE, the vessel was boarded and told to stop fishing within 12 miles of the skerry.
It is thought the incident may have been intended to bolster support for Britain’s deal with the EU amid public dismay over new trading rules, shortages and price increases. Last month, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson jingoistically threatened to use gunboats to defend British fishing grounds in the event of a hard Brexit.
In 1955, the uninhabitable rock was infamously claimed by the British Navy, who waved a Union Jack over the outcrop and drilled a plaque into the granite. In 1972, Westminster claimed it to be part of the shire of Inverness in Scotland, hundreds of miles away.
A member of the Scottish parliament, Andy Wightman, has lodged a motion urging Scottish ministers to formally reject Britain’s spurious claim to the area. Mr Wightman has previously described the British claim of sovereignty over the area as “the last act of colonialism” of the British Empire.
He has now called on Scottish ministers to disclaim the rock in a bid to distance Scotland from complicity in the “land grab” and “the last annexation of territory in the British Empire”.
Mr Wightman wrote that “colonial annexation by the British Crown is not an internationally recognised means of establishing sovereignty over any territory”, and urged the Scottish Government “to formally disclaim sovereignty over Rockall”.
He further urged the London government to “initiate international dialogue” to establish the status of Rockall in international law”.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD called on Fine Gael and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to urgently defend traditional Irish fishing rights to the area.
He described a document agreed in 2013 establishing a boundary between the Economic Zones of Britain and Ireland as “shameful” and noted it had never been ratified by the 26 County parliament.
“They have created this mess and now Fine Gael, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and this government needs to sort it out. They must defend the historical Irish fishing rights at Rockall and they need to undo the 2013 Agreement that was never ratified by the Dáil as required by the Constitution.”