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Council appeal for Gardaí to back bid to use CCTV on illegal dumping

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*Dumping in Meelick. Photograph: John Mangan

Assistance from An Garda Síochána is needed for Clare County Council to utilise CCTV to tackle illegal dumping.

An increase in illegal dumping has been noted countywide particularly during the first lockdown earlier this year, Clare County Council officials have confirmed.

With scarce resources in place to clamp down on the act, senior engineer with the water and environment departments of the Council, Cyril Feeney explained they were “anxious to introduce CCTV” to assist in this regard. This cannot be done without the permission of An Garda Síochána.

Stopping of vehicles is permitted under the Waste Management Act 1996 but not the operation of a remotely operated CCTV system, he said. “The CCTV can’t be established without permission of An Garda Síochána. Gardaí can have immediate access to it at any time, the local authority will be the data controller. These are quite onerous conditions on the local authority but we believe we can get over all those jumps,” Feeney told a meeting of the Clare Joint Policing Committee.

Use of drones by local authorities in the South-East resulted in the Data Protection Commissioner ruling against County Councils. “We believe this is the mechanism where we can install and instigate CCTV systems with the support of An Garda Síochána,” Cyril flagged. “We do appear to have a problem with illegal dumping, this is one of our only mechanism where we can detect, record and hopefully prosecute people found to be illegally dumping”. The careful use of technology would become “a useful tool in our arsenal,” he added.

CCTV legislation can prove very cumbersome, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) noted. He questioned why dash cam footage was sufficient to stand up in court for certain Garda investigations but not surrounding illegal dumping.

All applications for use of dash cam footage must be approved by the Data Protection Commissioner, Chief Superintendent Seán Colleran confirmed. “It is a hugely complex area. It is very much on a case by case basis”.

Cratloe representative, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) questioned if a homeowner had CCTV and had an instance of illegal dumping on camera, would their footage stand up in court. “Every situation is unique. Members of the public are bound by the same rules of GDPR as the local authority,” Feeney responded to which Cllr John Crowe (FG) remarked that it was “a minefield”.

“It is a growing and massive problem. We are frustrated as a Council and our agencies in trying to counteract this problem. It is a countryside away from prying eyes that they are dumping. Highly frustrating, it can’t continue, it is a horrid situation,” Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) commented.

South-East Clare represented the “obvious area” to begin any trial surrounding CCTV, Deputy Cathal Crowe (FF) believed. “Headline crimes” regarding illegal dumping have occurred at the location and he identified Killaloe Bridge as “an appropriate starting point”.

Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) asked why some counties were using CCTV when others weren’t allowed to. “We have seen reports of local authorities using CCTV but we have also seen unsuccessful appeals to the Data Protection Commissioner. No local authority has come out with an A+ on it so far. We have to be above board,” Feeney replied.

There is a collective concern among elected representatives regarding flytipping, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) maintained. “There is a perception that CCTV is being used in Municipal Districts around the county with cameras rotated around North Clare and Cratloe. If we are not able to do use CCTV, we need to take the steps to do it”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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