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A site in Kilmore Broadford which has regularly been used for high volume fly tipping. Moves are now afoot to enable the use of CCTV to identify culprits Photograph by John Kelly

New Bill looks to harness technology against illegal dumping

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A NEW bill is going through the Oireachtas, which aims to allow the State to tackle instances of illegal dumping through the use of CCTV, drones and automated number plate recognition, writes Owen Ryan.

The Local Government (Surveillance Powers in Relation to Certain Offences) Bill 2021 was introduced to the Seanad on Tuesday by Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne.

His party colleague Cathal Crowe said it is a piece of legislation that he himself has taken an interest in.

“Over the past year, I’ve been in regular contact with Senator Malcolm Byrne and the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisors in the Oireachtas – they being the team that support members of the Oireachtas in drafting new legislation.

“Senator Byrne and I feel that the current laws in place relating to litter pollution make it very difficult for local authorities to use modern technology to catch offenders.

“This difficulty has increased with the advent of GDPR regulations which make it very difficult for local authorities to capture video footage of illegal dumping incidents and to use these to get a prosecution.”

One of the unintended consequences of GDPR has been an increase in the ease of illegal dumping, and Deputy Crowe said the new legislation should go a long way to helping.

“Prior to my election to the Dáil, I was part of a group of people in the Woodcock Hill, Meelick area who sought to use battery powered trail cameras similar to what hunters and nature spotters use, to identify acts of dumping in remote areas.

“At the time, I spoke with a number of senior Garda officials who told me that they didn’t feel overly impeded by GDPR – if video footage provided evidence of an event happening, they would use that to try to secure a prosecution.

“However, from a local authority point of view there was huge legal ambiguity and I hope that this Bill, if enacted, will remove a lot of that and pave the way for a more aggressive fight-back against illegal dumping.”

Cratloe based Councillor Pat O’Gorman said that illegal dumping has been a serious local problem. “It has been an issue around the Gallows Hill and Woodcock Hill area of Cratloe, the Cratloe/Meelick border.”

He also said that it had been an issue around the Twelve O’Clock Hills for a period of time. When Covid-19 restrictions were at their worst in 2020 and 2021 the problem had been pronounced, he added.

“During the level 5 lockdown it seemed like people were cleaning out houses and garages and the whole thing seemed to end up on the top of the mountain, in forestry gates and places like that.”

“One Saturday morning a family got up to go shopping and they had to get a tractor to remove rubble from the middle of a road that had been dumped there overnight. It seemed that a van or lorry of some description went down the middle of the road tipping it out until it was all gone.”

He said that the change in legislation would be very welcome, and hopefully result in an improvement at litter blackspots.

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