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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Cracking Down on Theft of Catalytic Converters

I call upon the Government to provide greater resources to the Garda to stop the illegal catalytic converters and scrap metal trade. Technology advances, along with the uptake of crime in this area, means our current approach is no longer fit for purpose. Catalytic converters are valuable because the precious metals they are made of, such as rhodium, platinum and palladium, have increased in value in recent years. During certain periods, some of these metals can have a higher value than gold. Apart from the risk of funding criminals, the illegal dismantling of vehicles, in particular, end-of-life vehicles, can cause serious environmental damage. Earlier this year in February, an investigation by Fingal County Council resulted in four individuals pleading guilty to the illegal transportation of catalytic converters. The council said it hoped the guilty parties’ sentence would serve a strong deterrent. County councils’ waste enforcement sections are looking to improve traceability within the waste metal sector and are looking to strengthen compliance in metal recycling facilities. However, they need more assistance. In Kilkenny, there have been a few reports of catalytic converter thefts from cars within November alone. I know it is something that is very prevalent within my own county as well. A Garda source told The Irish Times that the theft of catalytic converters from cars has gone mad.

Many makes of cars are targets but some, including early models of the Toyota Prius and the Toyota Yaris, as well as Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, are more favoured for their higher-quality metals. Most of these thefts take place around the Dublin commuter areas.

Several years ago the United Kingdom put in place strict regulations on the scrap metal trade. In England and Wales it is illegal for anyone to buy scrap metal using cash. Instead dealers can pay using a crossed cheque, a prepaid card system or an electronic transfer of funds. Scrap metal dealers must also verify the identity of all sellers. Could Ireland look at what is being done in other EU countries in order that we can clampdown on illegal trade? In recent years more transactions have been made in cryptocurrency and the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau is also already struggling to deal with its caseloads. The way the cryptocurrencies are stored and used has caused greater difficulties for it. I will conclude by asking whether the Government is prepared to increase funding to the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau, the special criminal task force and other branches of An Garda Síochána, to deal with this issue. Will the Government help waste management sections in city and county councils to improve their waste traceability standards and is the Government prepared to collaborate with politicians in Northern Ireland to devise an all-Ireland approach to this? I am aware that many illegal sales of catalytic converters take place between the North and South, particularly in the Border counties of Meath, Cavan and Louth. That is a serious issue which needs to be looked at.

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