A local councillor says the law needs to be significantly strengthened when it comes to people who steal or damage lifesaving equipment such as lifebuoys or defibrillators.
A Fianna Fail bill due before the Dáil in the coming weeks would significantly strengthen the penalties applied to such individuals, and Skeoghvosteen councillor Peter 'Chap' Cleere says it's a very serious issue. The measures, spearheaded by Senator Dr Keith Swanick, are a direct response to a series of incidents in recent months where lifesaving equipment was tampered with.
Under the Fianna Fáil bill, a jail term of a maximum of five years will be handed down to individuals convicted of interfering with life-saving equipment. Alternatively, culprits will be hit with a €50,000 fine that will be attached to property and social welfare.
The Life Saving Equipment Bill 2017 has a petition which currently has 12,000 signatures, will be presented to the Government urging them to accept the legislation.
Cllr Cleere says that 13 people in Ireland die every day from cardiac arrest and that having a defibrillator is essential in saving a life.
"If people know that a custodial sentence of up to five years, or indeed a fine of up to €50,000, could arise on foot of stealing a lifebuoy or damaging a defibrillator, they might think twice," he says.
"Every week, approximately two people die in Ireland from drowning and a missing lifebuoy has regularly been cited. A stolen lifebuoy is potentially a stolen life.”