THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE has admitted a Royal Navy submarine was responsible for snagging an Irish trawler’s nets and dragging it through the Irish Sea.
The April incident, about 18 miles from the fishing port of Ardglass in Co. Down, saw The Karen and its crew dragged at a speed of about 10 knots, the vessel’s top speed.
A steel rope holding the nets snapped and the crew cut the landing gear, preventing the trawler from being dragged under, however the deck was badly damaged and thousands of pounds of fishing equipment was lost.
The crew suspected a submarine was responsible but no craft surfaced and military sources denied any British submarines were nearby.
There was speculation that a Russian vessel was responsible however British Armed Forces minister Penny Mordaunt has now admitted it was a Royal Navy craft.
She told the House of Commons: "The Royal Navy has now confirmed that a UK submarine was, in fact, responsible for snagging The Karen’s nets. The incident, the delay in identifying and addressing the events on that day, and their consequences are deeply regretted.
"It is standing Ministry of Defence policy not to comment in detail on submarine operations but, exceptionally, I can say that this incident occurred because the submarine did not correctly identify the Karen as a fishing vessel with nets in the water, and thus did not give her the berth she would otherwise have had.
"Moreover, had the submarine been aware of the incident at the time, which it was not, then the protocols in place under the code of practice for submarine operations in the vicinity of fishing vessels would have required the submarine to surface and remain on scene while the matter was investigated."
Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard, MLA for South Down, said the British Government must now explain their actions.
He said: "Having spoke to the skipper of The Karen he told me of the terrifying ordeal of being near dragged underwater before being able to break free by cutting the nets.
"The British Government and MOD must now explain their actions, if any disciplinary measures will be taken arising out of this incident and how it will avoid similar incidents in the future."