THE GAA clubhouses in Kinnitty and Clareen were badly damaged last week as they were targeted by copper thieves.
Some time between 8.30pm on Wednesday March 30 and 9.30am on Thursday March 31 both clubhouses were forcibly entered and copper products removed.
In Kinnitty thieves made off with two copper heating cylinders as well as copper piping from the heating system. This caused a lot of damage, especially water damage, as the pipes were ripped from the floor and walls.
Meanwhile the situation was a similar one in Clareen where copper piping was taken from the attic, again causing a lot of water damage.
Both incidents were reported early on Thursday morning and Gardai carried out a technical examination of both clubhouses.
Birr Supt David Kavanagh told the Offaly Express that there has been a pattern of copper thefts in Laois Offaly over the past three or four months. He said that private dwellings including newly constructed houses and houses being refurbished as also being targeted for copper. “This is a Europe wide phenomenon. The price of copper has risen due to a shortage of metals and can reach between €5,000 and €7,000 per tonne. It is a very valuable commodity,” said Supt Kavanagh.
He said in January in Birr as well as throughout Laois Offaly under Chief Superintendent Frank Moore, an operation has been ongoing which involved Gardai being tasked with manning check points in areas such as Kilcormac, Kinnitty and Shinrone. Gardai have been watching areas which have been targeted before. They are also watching compounds such as the ESB, Bord na Mona and Eircom which contain rolls of wire containing copper.
In relation to last week’s thefts, Gardai are following a number of lines of enquiry.
They are appealing to anyone who may have noticed any suspicious activity or suspicious vehicles in the vicinity of Clareen or Kinnitty between late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning to contact them in confidence on 057 91 69710.
Garda are also advising people who are constructing or renovating houses not to make materials readily available and said these should be kept under lock and key.
Supt Kavanagh also said he has heard of cases like this in the UK, France and as far away as Slovakia. “It is a phenomenon being driven by a lack of metals,” he said.