The ICMSA president has accused successive Irish governments of a “split-personality” attitude to regulation and enforcement that “is gradually wearing down the decent majority”.
Pat McCormack said that it was “absolutely infuriating” to be reading again about an epidemic of theft right across rural areas aimed at harvesting valuable metals from communication cables.
Theft of telephone cable
Earlier today, An Garda Síochána appealed to the public for information in relation to the theft of telephone cable in the Co. Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath areas in recent months.
As That’s Farming reported, Gardaí revealed that in the past six months alone, there have been 66 incidents of cable theft nationwide.
As well as appealing to the public for vigilance in relation to this crime, An Garda Síochána is also liaising with metal dealers.
It has asked them if they are approached to buy “significant” amounts of copper cable or copper in unusual circumstances to make contact with An Garda Síochána.
Mr. McCormack said that the public could be forgiven for experiencing a profound sense of déjà vu on hearing this news.
“We had all – and most particularly farmers – lived through a similar epidemic of metal theft over a decade ago on the last occasion when certain metals fetched prices similar to those being obtained now,” he said.
At that time, ICMSA has repeatedly called for a law or regulation forbidding scrap dealers paying in cash for such metals without the sellers confirming their identity and addresses by official documentation.
McCormack said that despite assurances and a “high-profile” public debate on the matter, the government had not undertaken “meaningful” action.
“Here we are again, more than a decade later with probably the same thieves selling the same type of stolen materials to probably the same buyers.”
He contrasted the state’s “inability” to keep a register of who was way buying and selling stolen metals with “their hyper-efficiency” in monitoring how much fertiliser a farmer can buy.
McCormack said that it was “very interesting” that the state can monitor and enforce the sale and use of sprays and fertiliser by demanding that all farmers keep individual registers.
“But is unable – or perhaps more accurate, it is unwilling – to actually regulate the purchase and onwards sale of metals stolen from public and private utilities in a way that leaves numerous rural communities without acceptable communications for days or longer.”
In summary, he described the move as “very interesting but unfortunately not very surprising”.