Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Fraudsters who sold useless 'electricity savers' now probed over slurry gas detectors

Rachel Martin

Three Co Armagh businessmen who sold hundreds of fake "electricity saving devices" to farmers across Ireland are now being investigated over the sale of slurry gas detectors.

The men, who traded as Electricity Saver Ireland, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud last week.

The company targeted farmers, sponsoring farming youth events and marketing itself at the National Ploughing Association Championships in 2012, which draws in thousands of farmers from across Ireland.

Gary John McGeown, John Paul McGeown and Peter Doran pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud consumers and businesses. Their firm is based in Abbey Street, Armagh, and has offices in Dundalk, Co Louth.

Customers were charged between €230 and €8,670 for devices which Trading Standards said amounted to "little more than pieces of plastic".

The trio are also behind a "lifesaving" device sold to farmers to detect lethal slurry gases. This is now the subject of a Health and Safety Executive investigation, the Belfast Telegraph has learned. The HSENI confirmed it was "making enquiries" into the firm's slurry detectors.

Electricity Saver Ireland said the devices, which retail for around €230, would save lives. They are said to warn farmers before toxic gases from manure reached dangerous levels.

They were pushed as a farmyard safety essential after the Spence tragedy, which claimed three farmers' lives in 2012.

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The incident in Hillsborough saw Ulster Rugby star Nevin Spence, his brother Graham and father Noel killed after they were overcome by toxic gases.

A Newtownards sheep farmer told the Belfast Telegraph that he relied on the device every time he spread slurry. He said: "I thought it was very good. It was always beeping to say it was detecting gas."

Over the last five years 49 farmers have died in slurry-related incidents in Northern Ireland.

A HSENI spokesman said: "HSENI are currently making enquiries into Electric Saver Ireland's sale of slurry gas detectors."

The spokesman added: "There are a range of hand-held hydrogen sulphide detectors, produced by a number of well-known manufacturers, which are readily available and can, if properly maintained and calibrated, provide an additional safety precaution for farmers working with slurry.

"HSENI is of the opinion that monitors can only ever be a back-up to a safe system of work, not a substitute."

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