Major search under way for missing fisherman


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The Independent Online

A major air and sea search is under way for a fisherman missing off the west coast.

The 43-year-old was last seen rowing an 18ft (5.5m) currach from the Mace Head area of Co Galway at about 5pm yesterday.

The alarm was raised by his ex-wife late last night.

It is understood a currach was discovered in the area this morning.

Both the Sligo and Shannon-based Coast Guard helicopters were involved in the overnight operation, which resumed at first light.

The Air Corps Casa maritime patrol aircraft is also searching the area, with the Aran Islands RNLI and Coast Guard crew from Costello Bay due to rejoin search teams.

Valencia Coast Guard is co-ordinating the operation.

A RNLI spokeswoman said conditions for searching overnight were good, with a slight swell.

The missing man, who is from the Mace Head area, which is near Carna in Connemara, is an experienced lobster fisherman and a keen sailor.

It is understood he was previously involved in the dramatic rescue of two brothers who were thrown from their traditional Galway hooker into Galway Bay in September 2009. One of the men later died.

John Draper, of the Irish Coast Guard, said the search operation resumed at 6.40am.

“The currach that belonged to the fisherman was located just north of Inis Mor early this morning,” he said.

“The search will work from that area back to the Mace Head area where the fishing grounds and lobster pot fisherman would have been operating yesterday.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “Today's data shows that the forecast for 2011/12 is on track, with public borrowing down by £11 billion compared to the previous year.

“This shows that the Government's plan to reduce the budget deficit is working.”

The rise in March's borrowing figure was driven by a fall of corporation tax from £1.8 billion last year to £1.2 billion, while VAT was down 1% to £9.4 billion.

But the Government's borrowing figures over the previous 11 months were revised downwards by £2.2 billion.

The ONS figures showed that central Government spending, excluding payments for benefits and interest, fell slightly for the first time since 1955, to £388.4 billion.

But economists say the Government will have a tougher task meeting forecasts to reduce borrowing to £120 billion in the current financial year as the economy struggles and unemployment rises, which will hurt its tax revenues and increase benefits payments.

Samuel Tombs, an economist at Capital Economics, said: “March's public finance figures suggest that the trend in the UK's fiscal position is continuing to worsen.

“Weaker-than-expected growth in tax receipts, reflecting the slow pace of economic recovery, has been offset by lower-than-anticipated growth in current expenditure for the year as a whole.

“But with the economic recovery continuing to stutter, we think it will become increasingly difficult for the Government to meet its ambitious deficit reduction plans in the coming fiscal year.”

The ONS will reveal tomorrow whether the UK has avoided a return to recession. The City expects GDP to increase 0.1% in the first quarter of 2012, after a 0.3% contraction in the final quarter of 2011.

That would mean the economy has narrowly avoided a technical recession, defined as two quarters of decline in a row.