When the public hinders public safety

Published on December 15th, 2019

You can’t walk far along the water’s edge in Ireland without passing a throwable lifesaving ring. They are honestly everywhere – an impressive statement on water safety – but when you approach the stand, you also see something else. Alongside the emergency contact information is the statement, “A Stolen Ringbuoy – A Stolen Life.”

As Tom MacSweeney reports for Afloat, vandalism is a reoccurring problem for the lifebuoys:


I have no hesitation in saying that I detest those who vandalize public lifebuoys. Prosecuting and convicting such people, because their actions endanger life is, without question, absolutely necessary.

However, new legislation to make it easier for Gardai (a predominantly unarmed police force) to do so and which would provide for a five-year jail sentence for those convicted has been held up in the Dáil (Irish government) for two years.

It is hard to understand why.

This equipment is a major part of the National Drowning Prevention Strategy. Local and Harbor Authorities provide ring buoys in yellow boxes but are having to spend €50,000 a year to replace an estimated 1,500 that are stolen or vandalized. Dublin City Council had to replace 500 last year at a cost of €20,000.

Cities, towns and urban areas are generally the locations where vandalism and theft are worst

Water Safety Ireland is working with Dublin Smart Docklands on a technological solution for the problem, according to the Chief Executive of Water Safety, John Leech. He discussed the problem on the podcast below:

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