Brewing industry has lost €40m with 400,000 kegs stolen

Government rejects Bill to regulate scrap metal industry for second time in two years

The Irish Brewing Association has said it costs €100 to replace each stolen keg. Photograph by Frank Miller

The Irish Brewing Association has said it costs €100 to replace each stolen keg. Photograph by Frank Miller

Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 01:08

Robbery of beer kegs for their metal resale value has cost Irish brewers €40 million and the loss of more than 400,000 kegs since 2007, the Dáil has heard.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly referred to the arrest last week by gardaí of 27 people as part of a pan-European crackdown on stolen goods. Those arrested were in possession of 1,000 empty beer kegs.

Mr Donnelly said the theft of kegs was a serious issue for the Irish Brewing Association, who said it cost €100 to replace each keg. The global price of metal started to increase in 2007, and since then the association reckoned the trade in stolen metals had cost the industry about €40 million and more than 400,000 kegs.

He was speaking during a debate on the Scrap and Precious Metal Dealers Bill introduced by Independent TD Mattie McGrath, in an amended version of legislation he published in 2012 but which was rejected.

Mr McGrath voiced his concern at the “continued plundering of our national treasures”. The Bill aims to regulate the scrap metal industry and the “cash for gold” business.

He said the Irish Georgian Society, Irish Aviation Authority, Iarnród Éireann, the ESB and Éircom had been targeted.

The lead from the roofs of Georgian buildings was being stolen, and without immediate remedial action these houses could be damaged beyond repair.

He said aviation telecoms masts were stolen, increasing risks for aircraft. In Clonmel, Co Tipperary, a mast transmitting RTÉ radio was repeatedly stolen and replaced until a decision was taken not to replace it again.

When jewellery was stolen “those items can be put in envelopes and posted away in return for cash in the post a few days later, with no proof of ownership or identity required”.

His Bill provides for the registration of all scrap metal dealers and requires a holding period of one month before metals are melted down, with penalties of up to €1,000 and three months’ imprisonment.

Minister of State Paschal Donohoe rejected the current Bill but said the Minister for Justice was committed to addressing this issue in a comprehensive manner. Work was ongoing on regulations and the department intended to introduce them shortly. He said the Garda was implementing a metal theft prevention plan.

Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien said that when the Government rejects a Bill with a commitment to address the issues concerned, “it is not acceptable the issues in question remain unaddressed 2½ years later”.

Labour TD Kevin Humphreys said in inner city communities copper water tanks were being stolen from flat complexes and residents wake up to water coming through their ceilings. Floodgates installed in Ringsend, south Dublin, were stolen two years ago and one had yet to be replaced.

“The impact of this random act of theft could be the flooding of 300 or 400 houses.”

Independent TD Finian McGrath highlighted a number of significant thefts, including the robbery of seven steel level crossing gates taken overnight in Sligo and Roscommon. The roofing of the bandstands in the National Botanic Gardens and the Phoenix Park Hollow was stripped, and steel doors stolen from the Ballymun regeneration project.