THE THEFT of copper piping from a vacant parochial house in West Limerick has once more highlighted the need to clamp down on the trade of scrap metal, a local councillor believes.
The burglary took place last week of the former parochial house in Feohanagh, during which a copper cylinder and other pieces of valuable plumbing were ripped out.
The house had been the home of former parish priest Fr James Hudner, and has been vacant since his death in 2009.
Cllr Jerome Scanlan, who lives in the village, said that the theft proves that the problem of opportunist thieves targeting vacant rural houses has not gone away.
“This is another recurrence of the problem where you have houses that are unoccupied on a long term basis being targeted. There’s absolutely an element of reconnaissance involved.”
The Fine Gael councillor believes that there must now be an overhaul of how the scrap metal trade is regulated, in order to cut off the market to thieves looking to fence their stolen goods.
“There needs to be legislation brought in with regards to regulating the trade of scrap metal. If that isn’t dealt with properly, then this will continue to be an issue.
“Metal is being accepted by merchants without any proof of ownership, or information on where it came from. I personally think that rules should be brought in whereby a tax clearance certificate should be produced, and all business handled by cheque. It certainly shouldn’t be a cash business.”
Cllr Scanlan added that while Dromcollogher, Broadford and Feohanagh are benefiting from the “vigilance” of the local garda sergeant, the latent threat of burglary in rural areas is proof of the need to maintain resources in rural policing, at a time when rural stations are being targeted for closure.
“I would be very concerned with what may happen if these resources are taken away, particularly within our local area”.
He added that broader social and economic issues are also hastening “rural depopulation”.