THERE has been an outpouring of concern regarding the misuse and outright vandalism of public life-saving equipment – particularly life buoys along the River Nore.
Referring to a recent incident in which a person was successfully rescued from the river near Greensbridge with the aid of a life buoy, the mayor appealed to the public to be vigilant for any vandalism to life-saving equipment.
“Without the assistance of that life belt, a young person’s life could well have been lost,” he said.
“Within days, on our route for the Mayor’s Walk, we noticed five life buoys thrown in the river as a result of anti-social behaviour.
At a recent county meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC), Irish Water Safety national chairman Breda Collins pointed out that people are cutting the ropes for their own use. The ropes are easily identifiable due to their distinctive colours.
“I think there should be mandatory sentences or mandatory massive fines for people who interfere with life-saving equipment,” said Cllr Paul Cuddihy, who is the chairman of the JPC.
“People are going along the river and taking away the ropes for these life buoys. At the moment, there is not much there in the way of deterrent. It is not good enough to say ‘we are just fooling around’. Aside from the appalling danger of this, there is also an additional expense.”
Kilkenny Water Safety says that the cost of replacing stolen/damaged ropes and life buoys every two years is between €15,000 and €20,000. The area particularly affected is Greensbridge/Sallybanks, and particularly during the summer holidays.
Billy Brett of Kilkenny Water Safety said there was a huge debt of gratitude owed to the fishermen and canoeists who retrieved life buoys after they had been thrown in by vandals. He said it was hardly a coincidence that many of the ropes were disappearing during periods at which certain members of the Travelling Community were using the river.
He also said that three or four years ago, people were burning the life buoys under the Ossory Bridge, but that it appeared to have stopped in recent times.
“We have got to stop pretending that there isn’t a problem with water safety,” said Cllr Cuddihy.
“There are people whose lives are lost as a result of this intensely childish, stupid behaviour. They are very emotionally unintelligent people who do this.”
Cllr Cuddihy also said that the problem of vandalising public life-saving equipment went beyond the riverside, however.
He says people need to be wary of making sure defibrillators, which are becoming an omnipresent feature of schools, GAA clubs, etc, are not interfered with.
“As they are becoming more commonplace, you don’t want to see people messing with them,” he said.
“They are very dangerous, and if you damage a defibrillator it could have serious consequences. They are very expensive as well.”
In the United Kingdom, vandalism of life buoys or life belts can lead to heavy fines of up to £5000 and/or imprisonment in, as a lack of these devices have been, in the past, the cause of several deaths.