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*Waste being collected from Doonbeg. Photograph: Doonbeg Community Development

A fight against Clare’s “scourge of illegal dumping” could utilise Eircodes to clamp down on what it seen to be a big problem across the county.

In February, elected members of Kerry County Council approved new bylaws on waste collection and disposal following on from a trial by Sligo County Council where waste collectors provide the local authority with the Eircodes of its customers. Clare County Council could follow suit in light of a motion from Cllr Cathal Crowe at their March meeting.

To help curb illegal dumping, he asked that the Council “introduce a compulsory registration scheme for Eircodes. Establish co-operatives with local environmental groups so that a more expansive covert CCTV system can be employed in Clare. Organise for a media tour of litter blackspots in the county so that a heightened awareness of fly-tipping can be achieved with the public. Introduce an educational programme (similar to Fire Safety Week) for all primary schools in the county. Organise in conjunction with local environmental groups, weekly beach clean-ups.”

On the possibility of using Eircodes for such a purpose, Director of Physical Development, Carmel Kirby highlighted, “Sligo County Council has informed Clare Council County that ‘The Eircodes Pilot is still a work in progress and they are currently reviewing the concerns raised by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC)’. In February 2019 the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) highlighted that it had ‘concerns about private waste companies passing customers Eircodes to local authorities to identify households without a private waste collection’”. Kirby confirmed they would wait for “further guidance on this matter”.

Nationally engagements are being carried out to examine the potential of CCTV for identifying culprits guilty of such a crime. “Illegal dumping is certainly a problem in County Clare and a major issue for the Local Authority to deal with. Clare County Council would be interested in exploring such an initiative in order to highlight to the public the scale of the problem and the resources that are expended in dealing with it,” she confirmed. Kirby added, “We are willing to assist any group to organise beach clean-ups but we require that such clean ups must be registered in advance with the Environment Section so that the practicalities of waste disposal are considered and dealt with properly”.

“Illegal dumping has escalated to crisis point in our country,” Cllr Crowe replied. He felt the assistance of Eircodes would “collate information and detect dumping in a more efficient way”. The Fianna Fáil general election candidate suggested the a trail camera which costs under €140 be used in communities across the county. “The camera illustrates how we can detect more and more instances in our county, crucially there is a SIM card with the camera which allows a message to be sent”. He wanted to see a person found guilty of illegally dumping by the camera to be tried in court, “Let the judge decide if it is dismissible. If it’s an experiment that fails it’s €400, removal of waste is costing multiples of that”. “These are hunting cameras and we’re going to use them to hunt down the litterers,” he added.

Shannon councillor Gerry Flynn was not in favour of using Eircodes but backed the call to trial cameras. Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy was even more supportive, “This camera idea I cannot see why the Council would not consider it on a trial basis and could potentially be done by communities themselves”.

Fine Gael’s Mary Howard commented, “it isn’t just a rural or urban issue”. “GDPR is causing havoc in every walk of life imaginable, if there is an issue let the court of law decide, it has gone ridiculous that we’re protecting these people, let’s just bite this bullet, buy them and let the judge decide”. Cllr Pat Hayes stated, “There hasn’t been a councillor in here affected by the scourge of illegal dumping, of course they should be named and shamed”.

“Cllr Crowe has thrown the challenge down it is up to the Council to respond,” Cllr Christy Curtin declared. Fellow Independent PJ Ryan also voiced his approval of Crowe’s motion. “These people who dump rubbish on the sides of roads are a blight to the county and they need to be rooted out. They come along dump their rubbish and keep going, we’ve to get the environmental people to clean it up not to say the bad image it leaves. Let it go into a Court of Law and decide it, any judge that goes against us would look in a poor light”. Cllr Joe Cooney noted, “What’s going on is a disgrace, this the way forward”.

Sinn Féin’s Mike McKee flagged that a number of cameras on offer were “cheap and efficient”, he wanted the local authority to “get stuck in without waiting on a response from Data Commissioner”. Cllr Johnny Flynn calculated, “A million black bags of waste are unaccounted for in Clare each year”.

Replying to the views expressed, Kirby admitted she agreed with many of the comments and encouraged the public to report cases of fly-tipping to the Council. “I would like to follow an initiative like Sligo County Council however as I indicated in reply Data Protection Commissioner has concerns about privacy being passed on. I do agree wholeheartedly that CCTV is a good deterrent for all types of anti-social behaviour, at the moment we can’t get involved in community CCTV initiatives, if we could use CCTV we would”.

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