Thefts of church roof metal hit an all-time high

Thefts of metal from the roofs of churches are costing religious congregations dearly according to specialist insurer Ecclesiastical — which indemnifies churches against everything except acts of God.

The insurer said that 2011 was the worst year on record for claims on the island of Ireland. There were 54 cases in 2011, while 13 cases of church metal theft in Ireland have been reported this year to date.

A spokesperson for Ecclesiastical said that the damage to buildings can often be extensive and goes far beyond the cost of replacing stolen metal.

“Putting aside the irreplaceable loss of heritage, the financial loss arising from thefts goes far beyond the cost of just replacing the stolen metal. Damage to stonework caused during the course of the theft can be significant, as well as water damage to internal furnishings if it rains before the theft of roof coverings is discovered.”

The price of scrap metal has remained high, which has made churches an easy target and Ecclesiastical does not foresee any fall in the number of robberies until the price of metal falls.

To combat attacks on their vital metal infrastructure ESB Networks, Eircom, Vodafone, Veolia, Irish Rail and BT have formed the Utilities Alliance Group (UAG).

There has been at least one fatality due to people illegally accessing ESB substations and the UAG is warning that there is a public safety element to their campaign against metal theft.

The group was formed after the costs of repairing, replacing and securing metal hit more than €5m.

The utilities have been lobbying the Government to introduce legislation to tackle the sale of scrap metal. As it stands a bill to ban its sale without proof of its provenance is waiting to be signed into law.


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