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Dáil Statement by James Browne TD Minister of State for Law Reform regarding the escalation in the use of illegal fireworks

On behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this matter here today.

As you will be aware, fireworks, because they are explosives, are regulated under national and EU legislation and can only be imported into the country under licence and stored and sold in accordance with the explosives law.

Government policy restricts the availability of all hazardous fireworks to the general public.

Licenses under the Explosives Act are issued by the Department of Justice and Equality only for the importation of fireworks, which are to be used in organised displays conducted by professional and competent operators.

Having said that, Minister McEntee is all too conscious of the numerous incidents, and sadly some serious accidents arising from the use of illegal fireworks.

Every year in the run up to Halloween both the Department and An Garda Síochana engage in additional work to try and keep everyone safe and to raise awareness of the dangers associated with improper use of fireworks.

As Halloween approaches, the Department runs a safety campaign working with various stakeholders and partners to ensure a message of safety and compliance reaches as a wide an audience as possible.

Aside from the very important safety aspects of the campaign, it also highlights the serious penalties that individuals can face given that breeches of the legislation governing the importation and use of fireworks are quite rightly treated as very serious offences.

In addition to this work undertaken by the Department, An Garda Síochana engages in “Operation Tombola” at this time of year, which aims to combat the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

The Garda Commissioner has informed Minister McEntee that each District puts in place an Operational Plan to tackle the sale of fireworks including through:

• Combating the importation, sale and distribution of illegal fireworks, through intelligence led operations, visits to local car boot sales, searches and seizures of fireworks.
• Liaising with local authorities and Fire Services regarding the provision of official, supervised bonfire sites, the policing of these, and the identification and removal of stockpiled bonfire material and abandoned vehicles from other locations.
• Promoting awareness of the danger associated with the improper use of fireworks and unsupervised bonfires through the media, social media, school visits and information leaflet distribution by members and the Crime Prevention Officer.
• High visibility policing of the Halloween night celebrations.
• Utilising the Divisional Public Order Unit on Halloween Night.
The Deputy will wish to be aware that Operation Tombola also focuses on preventing associated public disorder and anti-social behaviour through the incremental deployment of resources, including Garda Public Order Units to augment local plans as appropriate.

Finally, in terms of legislation, as well as Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which gives An Garda Síochána the power to make arrests in relation to the possession of unlicensed fireworks, a number of strong legislative provisions are available to Gardaí to combat anti-social behaviour more generally and include –

•the Criminal Damage Act 1991;
•Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994;
•the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003; and
•the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.