Film star Brendan Gleeson has said Ireland needs to show some self-respect and reclaim its valuable oil, gas and fish resources.
The Emmy award winner said he was inspired to support a new documentary The Atlantic after witnessing the bullying and slow death of coastal communities.
The feature-length film – from the maker of The Pipe, which explored Shell’s Corrib Gas project in Co Mayo – examines the exploitation of finite resources off Irish shores, and Newfoundland and Norway.
And it gets unprecedented whistle-blower access to the workings of a super-trawler – a mammoth factory ship which drags nets the size of football pitches to scoop up tonnes of fish at a time.
Gleeson said: ” I feel that we haven’t valued either the resources or the communities that can live from them.
“What I meant by self-respect was in our own terms of self-respect, as a nation in looking after the communities.
“We are hammering the small man and we are legitimising these massive factory ships.”
Gleeson was encouraged to take part in the documentary after spending time in Newfoundland filming the Grand Seduction where he saw ageing, seaside communities with little future, as cod quotas remain closed.
“These communities are dying on their feet. The moratorium has destroyed the whole culture and way of life,” he said.
“It’s just patently appalling and patently wrong.
“But I was really inspired to what they did in response. They showed a sense of self respect that we have not really done here.”
Documentary film-maker Richie O Domhnaill, a theoretical physics graduate and TV cameraman, travelled to Arranmore, where he spent time with local fisherman Jerry Early.
The nets man was prosecuted for catching salmon at sea while for several months of the year he watches gigantic trawlers pull vast quantities of white fish from the depths a few miles offshore.
“They are not being policed,” Gleeson said.
“There’s one rule for the big boys and one rule for the small boys.”
Under a European trade-off for increased farming benefits Ireland gifts about a billion euro worth of fish from its seas every year to other EU countries.
Gleeson said protecting the sea’s resources has to take precedence over “some dodgy stuff that was done in the 80s” referring to Ireland’s tax write -offs for oil and gas exploration at sea.
For the film O Domhnaill also visited the tiny Canadian village of Renews and spent time in Norway with Bjornar Nicolaisen who offered a careful and philosophical outlook on the use of the Atlantic’s resources.
Gleeson said his experience of coastal communities was that they were dying out as big business capitalises on the seas.
“We always took pride ourselves in standing up in the face of bullies and I think we are being bullied now,” he said.
The Atlantic also looks at overfishing and oil exploration against the backdrop of climate change.
The film, which shows in some cinemas from this weekend, was part financed through a crowd-funding campaign and won Best Irish Documentary at the Dublin International Film Festival.