Plan to jail lifebuoy vandals a tribute to R116 heroes - senator
A five-year jail term or a €50,000 fine will be handed down to individuals who steal or damage life-saving equipment under a plan being devised by Fianna Fáil.
A bill due before the Dáil in the coming weeks will significantly strengthen the penalties applied to individuals who interfere with defibrillators or life buoys.
The measures, spearheaded by Fianna Fáil senator Dr Keith Swanick, are a direct response to a series of incidents in recent months where life saving equipment was tampered with.
And Mr Swanick says the legislation is also being drafted in memory of the crew of Rescue 116.
The first-time senator said the law needs to be significantly strengthened in order to deter people from damaging life buoys and defibrillators.
Gardaí in Arklow, Co Wicklow, recently launched an investigation after a defibrillator was stolen.
The unit was smashed off the wall and broken into pieces in January by a number of thugs.
The vandalism stunned the local community - and prompted a campaign to raise money to replace the defibrillator.
Under the Fianna Fáil bill, a jail term of a maximum of five years will be handed down to individuals convicted of interfering with life-saving equipment.
Alternatively, culprits will be hit with a €50,000 fine that will be attached to property and social welfare.
The bill is due to be debated in the Dáil before the summer recess.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Swanick said 13 people in Ireland die every day from cardiac arrest and that having a defibrillator is essential in saving a life.
"If people know that a custodial sentence of up to five years, or indeed a fine of up to €50,000, could arise on foot of stealing a lifebuoy or damaging a defibrillator, they might think twice," the Mayo senator said.
"Every week, approximately two people die in Ireland from drowning and a missing lifebuoy has regularly been cited. Cork City Council, for example, had to replace 300 lifebuoys last year, because of theft or damage."
Mr Swanick said he was motivated to publish the Life Saving Equipment Bill 2017 after he volunteered to assist with the Rescue 116 mission in Blacksod.