Five men arrested after theft of ESB power cable worth €2,000
Five men have been arrested by gardai investigating the theft of ESB overhead power cables, with around €2,000 worth of wire seized in the operation.
Their dramatic arrests happened at around 4.40am yesterday when members of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, backed up by local gardai and the air support unit, detained the suspects near Rathangan, Co Kildare, in a planned operation.
Two cars were also seized by gardai.
The men were detained at Naas and Leixlip garda stations.
Two of the men were released without charge yesterday afternoon.
The three other men have been charged and are expected to appear before the Criminal Courts of Justice this morning.
Last night, Detective Inspector Noel Browne, of the gardai's drugs and organised crime bureau, told the Herald that the operation had been planned for months and was "intelligence led".
"The re-sale scrap value of what we seized this morning is around €2,000, but damage worth around €15,000 was caused to the ESB," the senior detective said.
Gardai said in a statement last night: "Investigations have been carried out into the large-scale organised theft of live electrical cables throughout the country over the past number of months.
"The modus operandi of the group involved was to climb electrical poles and cut large amounts of copper wire over a period of several hours.
"This has resulted in power outages to large sections of the country, presented a serious danger to the public and resulted in millions of euro worth of damage to ESB power lines.
"To date this year, 142km of power lines have been stolen at a replacement cost of €4.6m," a garda spokesman added.
Cable theft usually occurs in rural areas at night and gardai and the ESB have made a number of public appeals about what is considered a particularly dangerous crime.
It is suspected that the stolen copper is transported out of the country by gangs and sold on to dealers in eastern Europe.
The ESB has urged members of the public to call the emergency services if they see people either climbing up ESB poles or using heavy machinery to reach cables at unusual hours.
Eleven such thefts happened all over Ireland in July, including an incident in Co Cavan when an electricity cable between Ballyjamesduff and Bailieboro was taken.
This was followed by two similar thefts in Galway when cables between Gort and Kilcolgan were cut down.
A cable measuring 9km between Lucan in Dublin and Leixlip in Co Kildare was stolen the previous week.
Other thefts were reported in counties Kilkenny, Limerick, Wicklow and Laois.
Around €50,000 of damage was caused to the ESB network when one kilometre of high-voltage cable was removed near Charleville, Co Cork, in April.
Last September, the Herald revealed that thieves climbed an electricity pylon at a Wicklow farm and cut high-voltage wires before stealing enough copper wire to stretch the length of two football pitches.