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A family´s last S.O.S. in their fight for justice

The story of  Irish fishing boat the Mary Kate 
and the Gaffney family


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The Story of the Mary Kate

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Christy Gaffney Senior (left) and CJ Gaffney (right)


In 2007 we bought the Dutch, built, and designed, beam trawler Mary Kate WD 30 (formerly Maarten Senior SC-30, Evert Jan SC-30) in Holland. The purchase of Mary Kate was to be the jewel in the crown of our family’s proud fishing heritage which spans five generations.


The Mary Kate was bigger and more modern than any of our previous fishing boats. She  was under German registry at  the time of purchase. Her Stability Book was stamped  by Germanischer Lloyd. She had a valid Sailing Permit  issued by the German Ship Safety Division every two years. The Stability Book was updated and translated by the original design company. Mary Kate was surveyed twice by a Dutch survey company before purchase. We bought her from a leading Dutch Ship broker. We carried out the necessary due diligence which was applicable at the time of purchase in 2007. All the above paperwork was accepted by the Irish Marine Survey Office and Irish Authorities.

​Little did we know then  that we were now sailing into uncharted waters.



In 2009 we consulted a naval architect with concerns regarding the stability of the boat. On two separate occasions while fishing  the Mary Kate almost capsized. Had it not been for our expertise and innate knowledge of boats, three men would have drowned.


Subsequently, four Incline Tests were carried out. All Incline Tests and hull measurements revealed the same results; 20 tons of steel, in this 23.93M beam trawler, could not be accounted for. The result highlighted the gross disparity between the Mary Kate’s actual stability levels and those stated in the original approved Stability Book. The now Irish registered Mary Kate was an accident waiting to happen. We notified the Irish Marine Survey office of this major stability fault.



Our insurers would not cover us, deeming the problem a ‘latent defect’ which meant the fault was present from the time she was built. Our insurance would not cover “latent defect.”



We tried to take a legal case in Holland but were time barred. We were time barred from taking any case in Germany also. The High Court in Ireland ruled Ireland did not have jurisdiction even though they knew we had nowhere else to go. We have never had a chance to present our evidence in court, despite our right to be heard under Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Article 47 states that Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law. Everyone shall have the possibility of being advised, defended, and represented. We were denied our Day in Court



With financial ruin looming above us, the only solution was to lengthen the boat by 5.85M. We had to borrow more money from the bank.



On 26th Jan 2011 we had a meeting in the European Parliament. In attendance were Maja Kirchner - Head of European Commission, Directorate General Maritime Affairs and Fisheries,  some former Irish MEPS  together with  policy advisors from DG Mar. We were allocated 30 minutes. After our PowerPoint presentation and our certified professional reports, the meeting continued for two and a half hours. All in attendance were shocked. We received every sympathy. Whilst the EU could not intervene, they had no objection to Ireland (Dept. of Agriculture Food and Marine) using funds from the European Fisheries Fund to compensate us  due to the unique and unprecedented circumstances of our case. DG Mar would have no objection. The Department of Agriculture Food and Marine offered no assistance.



 (2012) we were under serious financial pressure. The Mary Kate had not  put to sea for a considerable period. We had no income. We were  now forced to find a buyer to meet our financial responsibilities. A UK buyer was found. Due to her history, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency would not register the Mary Kate under the UK fishing fleet, even though  Mary KateWD30 had been lengthened by 5.85M,  had a new valid Fishing Safety Certificate of Compliance, a new stamped Stability Book issued by the Irish Marine Survey Office in accordance with EU regulations. The sale fell through.  We had no  choice but to surrender our boat and our fishing licence. The Bank took possession of the Mary Kate WD30 including licence and sold her to recoup some of their money. 



We now  are seeking  the establishment of an official and impartial investigation by the three countries involved and the European Commission into the Mary Kate WD30. Holland where she was built, Germany who stamped her official EU documents and where she was registered from new build, and Ireland when she came under Irish flag.

How and why was a beam trawler (Mary Kate WD30)   issued with a  stamped Stability Book and a valid Sailing Permit by the German authorities,  when certified professional evidence confirms the presence of  20 tons of unaccounted steel from the time she was built?


No words  can describe the nightmare our family has lived through. We lost our boat, our fishing licence, our fishing quota, our family investment. We have lost our livelihood We lost respectability within the fishing community. We lost our good name. We lost a  proud maritime heritage spanning five generations of our family. We are financially ruined.


“I no longer work in or have anything to do with in the fishing industry . I am a broken man “– CJ Gaffney


Please sign our petition.   Help us get answers,  justice and compensation  for the nightmare we have suffered.

East Coast Radio interview
with Sean Kelly M.E.P.

Listen Here to MEP Sean Kelly Interview (Aug, '21) in support of The Gaffney Family

Minister Mc Conalogue East Coast Radio interview

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