Seanad debates

Friday, 5 March 2021

Local Government (Use of CCTV in Prosecution of Offences) Bill 2021: Second Stage


10:30 am

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. This Bill is an attempt by the Labour Party to address the issues that concern local authorities, and our councillors and local representatives in particular. As I said in my opening remarks, a large number of local representatives in the Labour Party and local representatives around the country have raised this issue with us. Indeed, other Senators have asked for the issue to be addressed. The Bill is a genuine attempt by the Labour Party to ensure we can use CCTV for the prosecution, identification and determination of illegal waste.

I thank Senator Moynihan for seconding my Bill. She also spoke about the extent of dumping that has occurred in her own area.

As I had previously done, Senator Cummins mentioned that seven local authorities have been pulled up, in essence, by the DPC. The Senator is right that a problem exists and the Bill is a genuine attempt by the Labour Party to address those concerns.

Senator Keogan raised a very important point, as did the Minister of State, about having data controllers. Senator Keogan has stated that it is a problem. It is a problem that we are getting through our joint policing committees. It is a problem and, again, it is something we can tease out further on Committee Stage, which I hope happens as quickly as possible.

The Labour Party agrees with Senator Boylan, who rightly said that more work needs to be done in this area. Illegal dumping is a huge problem. We have estimated that €90 million per year is wasted on cleaning up after illegal dumping. The Bill is a genuine attempt to start the conversation and discuss the use of CCTV cameras for the detection of illegal dumping and the prosecution of the perpetrators.

Senator Boylan also mentioned civic amenity centres. Like myself, I am sure that the Minister of State is aware of how beneficial such centres are in many areas. My own area of Athy has a terrific civic amenity centre. Civic amenity centres play a vital role in protecting us from illegal dumping and I am sure we can tease out any issues concerning opening hours. More centres are needed and people in north Kildare have called for one to be established for many years.

Senator Pauline O'Reilly eloquently described the "river of waste" beside her home that she sees when she is out on a walk, etc. As the Minister of State has told us, the Minister is bringing forward a Bill that we in the Labour Party totally support. We are looking for this to be done in the quickest possible time, and that is what today's debate is about.

It is not often that I disagree with Senator Black. She is a good colleague but, unfortunately, I must disagree with her today. This week alone, I was contacted by ten people from a working-class community about a single incident. For too long, they have had to put up with people dumping rubbish on their doorsteps and walkways, and they simply cannot put up with it any more. I seldom classify people but the people who contacted me are from working-class communities and they are the people I represent. They have asked me why we cannot use CCTV to prosecute the people who dump rubbish on their doorsteps.I thank Senator Byrne for the conversations we have had on this matter over a period and for his advice. He has done a lot of work in this area and is also bringing forward legislation, which we will support. As other Senators have said, it is very important that we work across parties and groups to support initiatives in this area.

Senator Conway spoke about the Tidy Towns groups. I could not agree more with him regarding the work they do. Senator Craughwell asked about going further with technology, an issue the Minister of State also touched on, but, as I have already said, this legislation is just aimed at addressing the issue being raised with us by local representatives in the Labour Party and by other local representatives throughout the country. I thank Senator Mullen for his support.

Senator Cassells raised an issue which I raised in the House earlier today, the issue of those whom I call "the professionals". These are the people who go around our housing estates in a car or van, flashing their lights to let people know to come out with their black bags. We need to tackle them. We also need to tackle the social media companies that facilitate their advertising. That needs to be tackled. Some of our local representatives have tried to do that.

I agree with Senator Ward. The Minister of State is on record as saying we need to give more powers to our local authorities. I know he is working on that. We in the Labour Party will support giving as much power as possible back to our local authorities.

I agree with Senator Currie, who outlined the dumping she has heard of this week. I myself have dealt with ten separate cases already this week. Senator Sherlock said that this is not a magic bullet. It is not, but it is a very important tool. Senator O'Loughlin spoke about the Curragh plains, an area very dear to me. Senator Fitzpatrick spoke about the frustrations as I have outlined. I agree with Senator Murphy that we should be working together. With regard to Senator Burke's comments, in my case it is Captain Morgan's and cola cans rather than Red Bull cans that I have to pick up on my road when I go for a walk every evening.

I thank the Minister of State for accepting this Bill for what it is, which is a genuine attempt by the Labour Party to address the concerns of our local representatives and, more importantly, the frustrations of those who find illegally dumped material on their doorsteps, particularly since they have begun taking walks in our beautiful countryside within the 5 km allowed under the restrictions. As others have said, this issue does not only affect our countryside, but our streets and cities as well.


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