Fianna Fáil Senator Keith Swanick has said the continued and repeated destruction of lifebuoys at beaches, rivers, and lakes across the country must be tackled head on.

Senator Swanick, who has introduced legislation which makes it an offence to steal or damage life-saving equipment such as defibrillators and lifebuoys, said it was totally unacceptable that thugs across the country continued to put lives at risk through their reckless behaviour.

He explained, “An average of 140 people a year die by drowning in Ireland. This typically increases as the weather gets better over the summer months and the number of people using our beaches and lakes grow. While it’s great to see people enjoying themselves it’s important to remain vigilant around water.

“Knowing that there is a fully functional lifebuoy close at hand is invaluable. They are a floatation device which anyone can use, and they do save lives. If they are not in place, or if they have been damaged it can have fatal consequences.

“Just last week in Waterford the ropes attached to lifebuoys along the very popular Waterford Greenway were burned off or cut for the second time, rendering the lifebuoy useless. This behaviour is completely unacceptable, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

“I brought forward the Life Saving Equipment Bill in July 2017, which seeks to make it an offence to steal or damage life-saving equipment such as defibrillators and lifebuoys. If passed, the Bill imposes strict new penalties, including a fine of up to €50,000 and a jail term of up to 5 years for anyone convicted of interfering with life-saving equipment.

“Since then a petition to support the Bill has secured almost 20,000 signatures – a clear indication that the appetite is there to bring in legislation to protect vital life-saving equipment.

“I hope to see the Government progress this legislation in the new Dáil term and send a clear message that this kind of behaviour won’t be tolerated,” concluded Senator Swanick.