Harry's wife, June, however, has criticized the strike and the tactics of intimidation in letters to the local newspaper. But her protests have left her uneasy. "I've been afraid to send my children to school," she says. "Terrified to answer the phone."
Tracking down the source of the intimidation is not easy, even when you head up the lake to Cornamona and meet the protesters on their home ground, which in this case is the back room of O'Malley's Bar and Lounge. "Trout fishing is liberty," says Ignatius Burke, the chairman of the Corrib Boatmen's Association. "The money doesn't matter. But by buying a license we'd be ceding total control to the state. Don't you see that the lake is the same as a public park or a museum or an art gallery? It is hard to part with something you have had for generations. It's ours to hold on to for as long as we can."
As for intimidation, Burke says, wasn't it the authorities who were doing the intimidating? "Five wardens and two cops searched my boat in March," he said, "but there were no rods in it." Burke maintains that his group does not use intimidation but that it does rely on what it calls peer pressure.
"We can't stop people fishing," he said. "All we can say is, "We'd appreciate it if you didn't fish.' "
In the long run, the distinction matters little to those who are being hurt economically. Many of the striking boatmen have other jobs to go to in Galway city. Left to suffer most are the area's small shopkeepers, the bed-and-breakfast providers and others who depend on tourism. The Irish Tourist Board was given no warning of the license law and had made much in its promotional literature of Ireland's free trout fishing. The strike could cost Ireland as much as $14.5 million in lost revenue should it last the season, which ends in August.
There is no sign of a settlement, although hopes were briefly lifted last month when Prime Minister Charles Haughey and the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Joseph Cassidy, were thought to have reached a workable solution. But, alas, a few days later Haughey announced that nothing had changed—the new law will continue to be enforced. "Light at the end of the tunnel?" says Burke. "I don't believe there's any tunnel at all."