“We have a ridiculous situation in many parts of the country” preventing councils prosecuting those who are dumping, according to independent TD Noel Grealish.

In a Dáil debate on defamation laws in Ireland, the Galway West TD said that illegal dumping has gotten completely out of control “all over the country” in the past few years and will “only get worse unless drastic action is taken urgently”.

“We have a ridiculous situation whereby a person caught on CCTV cameras in the act of dumping illegally cannot be brought to court on the basis of that evidence,” the TD said.

“People arrive late at night and just dump rubbish on the side of the road or in a farmer’s field. I am talking here about van loads of rubbish, not just a few bags.

“It is then left up to farmers, local communities and local authorities to clean up the mess, at huge cost.

These people keep coming back and keep dumping because they are getting away with it and they know that they will not be caught because Gardaí and the local authorities do not have the resources to catch them.

The deputy said that this dumping is “destroying our countryside, towns and villages and, most importantly, our environment”.

“I have seen rubbish, including empty paint cans and dead animals, in streams and rivers that feed into the lakes that supply our drinking water.

“The craziest aspect of all of this is that councils are being prevented from using CCTV footage to prosecute people carrying out this dumping because of a ridiculous ruling by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC).

“Galway County Council is one of the local authorities that was specifically ordered not to use CCTV images by the DPC, following an audit.

“To add to the craziness, many other local authorities around the country continue to use CCTV footage as evidence in court cases because they have not received a similar order from the DPC as of yet.”

The deputy says we should “hit illegal dumpers where it hurts and it must hurt them hard”.

He has called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin to set up a taskforce to “deal with his epidemic and it must have power”.

He added: “If a vehicle or van loaded with rubbish is stopped and the person driving it has no waste disposal permit or if he or she is observed illegally dumping, Gardaí and local authorities must have the power to seize the vehicle and a substantial fine in excess of €5,000 must be paid before that vehicle is released.”