Members of Clare County Council have backed a motion from Ennis councillor Mary Howard calling for stricter penalties to be imposed on people who vandalise life-saving defibrillators.

According to Cllr Howard the media has recently highlighted a spate of such vandalism including CCTV footage of a group of 16 year olds in Arklow pulling a defibrillator off of a wall and kicking it up and down the road until it was destroyed. Separately, weeks later another defibrillator was destroyed in Cork city centre by vandals for the fourth time. “The list goes on,” she said.

These life-saving devices cost in the region of €2,500 to be replaced. Cllr Howard said she recently requested that Minister for Health to require all future publicly accessible defibrillators to be fitted with a sensor to notify the emergency services when the device is removed from its holder. Cllr Howard noted that the majority of defibrillators have been provided by local committees of volunteers who organised fundraising events in to raise the necessary funds.

Calling for action, Cllr Howard said, “In the future I would like to see these units fitted with a SIM module and internal camera, so that if the cabinet is tampered with or opened the camera will take a picture which will be saved to the SIM module and emailed to whoever is looking after the unit or the emergency services. I also believe stricter penalties should be imposed on those who damage and interfere with defibrillators similar to those penalties for interfering with a lifebuoy which include a large fine and/or a significant custodial sentence.”

Supporting the motion, Cllr Ann Norton said many people would not be alive today only for these exceptional devices and the volunteers trained to use them. Describing the sensor idea as “fantastic”, Cllr Norton said defibrillators save lives and anything that can be done to improve them will always be welcome.

Cllr Ian Lynch claimed that hundreds of people have been trained to use a defibrillator, but they have not been activated by the HSE due to some issue to do with some insurance related issue and this is costing lives. “The HSE has blood on its hand the way it messes with this programme that is absolutely brilliant because it saves lives,” said Cllr Lynch.