OVER twenty houses were left without a phone service after thieves removed 100 metres of cable suspended over the roadside on the outskirts of Cappamore last week.
It is thought they were after the copper encased in the cables to capitalise on the rising price of scrap metals, One of the local people affected was David Thompson, of Castlegarde, Cappamore.
“This is rural theft at its very worst. It is incredible, the gall of these thieves.
“It happened at Killuragh Cross on the bend coming out of Cappamore. The cheek of them to stop on the road, put up a ladder against the telegraph poles, cut the cables and take them away. It is unbelievable,” said Mr Thompson.
Last Thursday morning he had no phone service and recalled that his alarm started squeaking at 4am.
“They must have done it in the early hours of Thursday morning,” he said.
On Friday Eircom staff came out to replace the cables - the same day that Eircom was granted an interim examiner in the High Court.
To compound matters Mr Thompson said he couldn’t pay the household charge on line.
“I went to the Post Office but I couldn’t pay it there because I didn’t have a postal order. Then I drove in to the county council and they wouldn’t take a cheque, they would only take cash. So in the end I had to put it in the post.
“Everything is supposed to be done on-line now but that isn’t much good if they are robbing the telephone lines,” said Mr Thompson. There have been reports of the same crime occurring in Newport and Birdhill in recent weeks.
Meanwhile in Castleconnell last Wednesday half a ton of copper and one and a half tonnes of car batteries were stolen from the yard of a premises at Gooig.
Gardai say the theft took place between 6pm and 7.30am.
“It is likely that some sort of van or pick-up was used to carry out this theft. We are asking anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the vicinity of Gooig last Wednesday night to contact the Gardaí at Castleconnell at 061 377105. “We are also asking scrap metal dealers to be on the alert for any attempt to sell the copper and a large quantity of car batteries,” said the garda spokesperson. Anyone with information on the crime in Cappamore is asked to ring Bruff gardai on 061-382940.
A number of cases have come before Limerick, Kilmallock and Newcastle West district courts at which criminals have targeted copper wiring in derelict houses while construction sites and builders yards have also been targeted.
There are reports that manhole covers fitted by Eircom and the ESB have been stolen while car batteries are also being targeted by thieves scavenging metal.
Even county council signs have been taken.
In one case, a Polish gang had travelled all the way to Limerick to steal scrap metal.
Mr Thompson said a law should be introduced that cables taken to scrap metal dealers must be recorded, where it came from and only paid by cheque.
This is backed up by the IFA’s environment and rural affairs chairman Pat Farrell.
He has called for the introduction of a metal compliance scheme, similar to those operated by REPAK, IFFPG and WEE Ireland, to address the escalating problem of metal theft in rural Ireland.
“Householders in Limerick were left without a phone service while Eircom manhole covers are being stolen throughout the country. Car batteries, farm machinery and scrap metal are being taken out of farmyards.
“Metal theft in rural Ireland is growing at an alarming rate. The current review of the national waste strategy by Environment Minister Phil Hogan provides a real opportunity to track scrap metal and identify the thieves who recklessly enter private property and steal machinery and other materials from farmers.
“Minister Hogan should also introduce severe penalties for any thief caught stealing materials on private property.
“A joint strategy is required from the Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Environment Minister Phil Hogan, which recognises the problem and establishes measures, such as a scrap metal compliance scheme, that will prevent this type of crime in rural Ireland,” said Mr Farrell.