Farmers want regulation of scrap metal centres to stop 'epidemic of theft'
The President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Jackie Cahill, has described as "unacceptably casual" the arrangements around the buying and selling of valuable scrap metals in the country's commercial metal recycling centres.
Mr Cahill said that his organisation, the state's specialist dairy farmers' association, was being bombarded by complaints about "wholesale pillaging" of farms by gangs intent on stealing or stripping any machinery or buildings that they adjudge to contain saleable metals.
"It is literally an epidemic of theft. We're talking about wholesale pillaging of farms, where we have groups arriving in vans and proceeding to steal whatever they want, or whatever they estimate they'll be able to sell on. What is causing me such concern is that they seem to be able to convert into cash whatever it is they steal without any bother at all. The reality is that all of this stolen scrap metal is being taken in by commercial recycling centres that are simply paying cash over-the-counter. The whole country knows that that is what's happening, and it is leading to huge anxiety and irritation because we see what is effectively a massive blackmarket seemingly able to operate away with very little hindrance or obstacles being put in its way.
"This is not just a concern for farmers: local authorities, heritage sites and private companies, as well as ordinary householders, are all being put at huge disadvantage and having property looted because of this hopelessly unregulated and commercial disposal of scrap metal", said Mr Cahill.
When asked for possible counter-measures, the ICMSA President was adamant that the Gardai must become a much more frequent presence in the commercial recycling centres.
"We will be writing to the Garda Commissioner asking him to ensure that the Gardai become a much more regular presence at these metal recycling centres so that they can observe the actually receiving of the scrap itself. I've no doubt at all that such a presence of officers will greatly reduce the amount of stolen metals and scrap being offered for sale at these locations, and it will also enable the Gardai to build up a valuable profile of the individuals and groups involved in this trade.
"ICMSA estimates that there are no more than 55 registered commercial recycling centres in the state and it must be possible – even under present manpower and budgetary constraints – to organise a presence at five dozen locations", continued the ICMSA President.
Mr Cahill continued by saying that Government should also insist - by regulation, if necessary - that the metal recycling centres keep a full register, based on verified and official identification, of those who had sold scrap to them. "If you came by the scrap legitimately why would you have a problem with that", he asked.
"In the interests of stamping out the criminal elements that are undoubtedly thriving in the present absence of any supervision, we also feel that the recycling centres should adopt – or be made to adopt – a code of practice whereby they only pay for scrap by cheque or by direct transfer into a bank account. This would also provide a paper trail of money that would certainly interest the authorities, most particularly, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Welfare".
Mr Cahill urged action. "We have to regulate what is, at present, effectively a regulation-free zone. The lack of supervision is effectively permitting this epidemic of theft and vandalism that's raging through the country and we've been turning a blind eye to it for far too long. Our own sector, farming, is regulated to distraction by numerous agencies and yet groups can come on to our farms, steal everything – even five bar gates into our fields – and sell them without so much as a raised eyebrow and pocket cash that nobody knows about and nobody seems too bothered about either".