Government funding is being made available for the purchase and operation of drones to survey and identify people who are dumping illegally.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said €3m was being made available to the anti-dumping initiative, which is a 50% increase on last year.

Mr Bruton said illegal dumpers were "poking their finger in the eye of communities all over the country". 

He said the extra funding would increase the chances of catching offenders.

The increased fund will also be used for awareness campaigns and special collections for awkward items, such as mattresses.

Mr Bruton said that half the fund will be used to target dumping blackspots.

He added that since 2017, the programme has removed some 5,000 tonnes of illegal waste from some of the country's most notorious fly-tipping blackspots.

Speaking to RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme, Mr Bruton said communities must be given support to counteract the problem of illegal dumping.

He said people can avoid CCTV systems because they are stationary, while the drones will, he said, be able to fly at unexpected times and catch people who are unaware of their presence.

Meanwhile, responding to the initiative, SIPTU said a better planned service and not the use of drones was the answer to the country's waste problems.

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser Adrian Kane said a major overhaul of how waste services are operated was needed rather than investment in gimmicks such as aerial drones.

He said: "This spending money 'after the fact' on cleaning up illegal dumping is a misuse of resources as it fails to address the structural flaws within the waste market, namely, that 23% of all households in the Republic have no domestic waste service.

"The monies would be much better spent on introducing a national waiver system for impoverished families who cannot afford a domestic waste service and restructuring the market to allow for local authorities to start collecting household waste again."

Mr Bruton was in Darndale in his north Dublin constituency to show off the eBee drone, a €50,000 flying machine loaded with surveillance technology for targeting, mapping and tracking illegal dumping sites.

However, all of the local authorities have to share this one drone between them as it is the only one in the country.

The money announced today represents an extra €1m to be shared between all local authorities bringing the total available for the nationwide anti-dumping initiative to €3m.

It is to be used for innovation, surveillance, special collections for awkward items, such as mattresses, as well as awareness campaigns targeting young people, and recognising the work that volunteers play.

The minister said the aim of the money is to encourage innovation.