Successive Irish Governments have shown a split-personality attitude to regulation and enforcement to address metal theft which is gradually wearing down the decent majority, according to an accusation by Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack.
McCormack said that “an epidemic of theft right across rural areas aimed at harvesting valuable metals from communication cables” is “absolutely infuriating”.
He described how the authorities are now appealing to scrap dealers to inform the gardaí if they are presented with suspicious amounts of valuable metals including copper.
The ICMSA president said that the public could be forgiven for experiencing a “profound sense of déjà vu” on hearing this news as farmers and rural communities lived through a similar epidemic of metal theft over a decade ago.
He said this last spike in the theft rate came when certain metals were fetching the high prices similar to those being obtained again recently.
The Tipperary farmer described how, at that time, ICMSA repeatedly called for a law or regulation forbidding scrap dealers paying cash for metal 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, nothing meaningful had been done”.
“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 said.
He said that it is “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 [Government] is unable, or perhaps more accurately, 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.”