Opinion

Jack Russell: Fly-tipping – it’s almost the perfect crime

Jack Russell’s lip curled up to reveal a fang as he scrolled down the AgriLand report on the disgusting industrial-scale dumping in the Coillte forest on the Meath-Cavan border.

Right behind the blood boiling in his head, an old tune was clearly audible, one that Jack remembers being played often on the ‘wireless’ when he was a young pup.

It was most famously recorded by Jim Reeves, the Texan singer who was immensely popular in Ireland where his gentle ways and low melodic voice won him many fans.

Welcome to my world.

Not convinced

The indignation felt and expressed by Coillte is completely understandable, as is their slightly less convincing ambition to co-operate with the Gardaí and Meath County Council to investigate the dumping and see if the disgusting, filthy vandals responsible can be brought to book.

Yeah. Sure. Good luck with that one, lads.

For several years now Jack Russell and several of his neighbours have had direct experience of fly-tipping.

Numerous complaints to the local authority and councillors, numerous photos of local worthies in the local paper pointing at the offending rubbish and promising yet another ‘crackdown’ on the despicable element responsible, numerous reports of council staff fine-combing the rubbish for a utility bill or any other evidence of identity that would allow them to identify the culprits.

All to no effect.

In fact, if anything, the dumping has gotten worse and even more brazen. The more we promise to tackle the dumpers, the less convinced they seem to be that we mean it.

The bad news is that Jack Russell thinks their estimation of us is absolutely right – we really don’t mean it.

If we did mean it, if we were serious about prosecuting illegal dumping, then we’d have serious rates of conviction and even more serious fines and imprisonment.

But one glance at the statistics tells you all you need to know about how we really view this kind of environmental and social atrocity.

Take Kerry – the place in Ireland where monetising natural beauty is most perfectly understood – 955 reports of fly-tipping were received by Kerry County Council. 142 fines were issued and 32 prosecutions resulted.

That, in turn, fell to 15 convictions for which the council collected a total of €5,685.

Where’s my calculator?

So the average return received by the council from the 142 cases that were proceeded with (out of the 900-odd cases reported) was €40.

Put against that figure, the man hours, the administrative costs, the legal costs, the clean-up costs for each of the individual 900-odd cases.

Kerry County Council spent €602,148 on ‘litter management’ in 2017.

Let’s not even mention the tourist revenue foregone when Seamus and Selma return to Chicago and tell their friends and family about the fetid dump they stumbled on during their retirement trip back to his birthplace in ‘The Kingdom’.

And Kerry’s not the worst.

Their neighbours in Limerick had 59 cases of illegal dumping go to court, 24 convictions resulted in – wait for it! – €800 in fines.

So, Limerick recouped the grand total of €13.55 for every case of illegal dumping it brought to court.

Only in Ireland

Are you still wondering why someone thinks that illegally dumping 600t of rubbish in a Meath forest is an acceptable risk?

It’s almost the perfect crime.

He’s unlikely to get caught, he’s even more unlikely to be prosecuted and even if he is prosecuted and convicted then the fine he pays is massively less than the money he made by dumping illegally.

Jack can read your thoughts.

If we can’t even get the costs involved out of the dumpers we catch and convict, who’s paying for this disgusting crime?

Funny you should ask that.

Under Section 5 of the Waste Management Act, when waste or rubbish is on private property, it is the landowner’s responsibility to remove/dispose of it appropriately and pay the relevant costs.

‘Landowner’ there usually means farmer, that means you. Only in Ireland would the person most obviously not guilty of anything, be the one who bears most of the cost.

Usually that’s us, the farmers. But today, it’s Coillte.

Welcome to my world.

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