Wednesday, 1 February 2012
John Whelan (Labour)
I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to raise this matter. While this matter comes within the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality, given the environmental dimension, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government may also have a responsibility in this regard. I am sure the Minister of State will clarify the position for me.
What does the Government propose to do to address what is now an epidemic throughout Ireland, namely, the thievery, sale and transfer of scrap and precious metals such as copper, lead and zinc? Theft of these items is highly orchestrated and is posing serious economic, commercial and social problems throughout the country. I know of a number of businesses which, if broken into and robbed one more time, will cease trading. The loss of materials at these plants brings production to a halt, has serious security implications and poses a threat to jobs and the viability of these businesses.
The illicit trade in scrap and precious metals has ballooned out of all proportion in recent months. As in the case of any criminal activity, this would not be happening if there were not people willing to receive and launder stolen precious metals, thus providing an illegitimate outlet for these materials. In some cases, this practice is posing a risk and a serious threat to public health and life, not alone to those stealing the items but to children, owing to exposure of cables and electric devices. It is a most despicable act. Nothing is sacred any more.
A memorial to deceased members in my constituency of Castletown was stolen, resulting not alone in the loss of the memorial, which cost €30,000, but also a great deal of hurt and distress in the community. Many of the people commemorated by that memorial were young people who lost their lives in various tragedies in the locality. Nothing is safe or sacred. The Minister of State and Members will be aware that public sculptures, monuments and art installations throughout the country are being stolen. This problem must be tackled. Doing so will require new regulation, intervention by Government and a greater level of enforcement in the tracking of metals. I urge the Government to ensure this practice is brought to a halt. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's response.