A vital and potentially lifesaving defibrillator open to the public has been removed after it was set upon by vandals.
Those trained in the use of the device in Blessington town in County Wicklow said they were forced to remove the unit – credited with saving the life of a man last year - after its secure storage box was attacked on Friday night.
The group, the Blessington Community First Responder Unit, said the public access defibrillator was positioned on the wall outside the West Wicklow public house in the centre of the town.
It is understood that CCTV footage is currently being reviewed by Gardaí in an effort to catch those responsible.
Speaking to Independent.ie Blessington First Responder member Simon Taylor said the damage to the case could cost upwards of €500.
“It was a fairly cowardly act – I mean this defibrillator has and will save lives. There was no reason for anyone to give it a going over.
“At first we thought someone might have been trying to steal it but it seems now that it simply was an act of stupid vandalism.”
Mr Taylor said the incident likely happened at around 9pm on Friday night, adding that those behind the act were caught on CCTV.
“It looks like they hit it a few things with their arms and legs.
“The supplier of the box will need to come out and examine it because these cases are designed to both cool and heat the defibrillator depending on the conditions outside.
“Cold weather will seriously affect the device’s batteries so it is important its case is working 100pc – about 5000 people suffer cardiac arrests each year in Ireland, and you’ve got a window of about 10 minutes to use a defibrillator.
“That’s why these public access ones are so important. Outside of the city centre in Dublin, and even then, it would be almost impossible for an ambulance to get to you in ten minutes.”
The Blessington First Responders are a group that trains local people in the use of defibrillators and supplies those qualified with the access codes needed to open the defibrillator’s security boxes.
The group said it hoped to have the defibrillator back in place as soon as repairs are carried out.