Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that in light of the recent spate of thefts of copper wiring from ESB cables it is inconceivable why there has been such slow movement by the Minister for Justice in bringing forward his Scrap and Precious Metal Bill.
Deputy McGrath was speaking as Gardaí are investigating 12 thefts of power cables, all of which have taken place in the past three weeks.
“I first introduced my Scrap and Precious Metal Bill in 2011 and I resubmitted a detailed amended version in April of this year. I brought this Bill to the House because there was an urgent need to try and put in place a more regulated legislative environment where the theft and unauthorised sale of scrap or precious metal would be seriously diminished and be met with more appropriate legal penalties.
“I find it bewildering that despite cross party support and wide agreement in the Houses of the Oireachtas that this Bill was vital and necessary that it is still waiting to be brought before the Houses and be made law with the support of the Minister for Justice. The issues and the concerns raised by the theft of metal and wiring have not diminished and this spate of recent thefts has proven that it is needed now more than ever.
“We cannot continue to simply sit back given the catastrophic consequences that can ensue from such thefts. I have said on numerous occasions that we are living in a deeply unregulated environment where, for example, the theft of signalling equipment from train stations and lines can be easily sold on with few of the necessary questions about the materials origins being asked; this is completely unacceptable.
“With gangs getting €6 a kilo for copper and €1 for lead, it is believed Irish and foreign gangs are competing to get to the best sites first, which are often those of derelict buildings or unused commercial properties.
“This is no longer solely an issue of strict criminality because there are now serious public health concerns arising from the practice of scrap metal theft. As well as targeting valuable lead and copper, these thieves also display a complete disregard for the safety of people like small children, when they load up dozens of man-hole covers and protective sewage coverings. This Bill must be passed as a matter of urgency before someone loses their life. This is not a victimless crime,” said Deputy McGrath.