Minister for Justice and Equality, Helen McEntee TD, today reminded anyone tempted to use fireworks this Halloween to remember workers at the frontline of dealing with Covid-19 as well as vulnerable members of the community.

A number of weeks ago, the Minister launched the Department of Justice’s annual fireworks awareness campaign, which highlights the serious dangers associated with fireworks and the significant penalties that people face for selling or using illegal fireworks. Fines can be as high as €10,000 and/or up to 5 years in prison if convicted of fireworks related offences.

Noting the clear increase in fireworks incidents this year, the Minister urged people thinking about buying or using fireworks to think again and not to add to the problems already faced by so many in our communities.

“Our grandparents, elderly friends and neighbours are already worried about the pandemic. These are people who have cocooned and restricted their movements; they do not need the extra stress of fireworks going off near their homes. They also cause distress for pets, other animals and livestock. Please don’t just think about yourself this Halloween, think of other people in your communities too”

The Minister also reminded people of how important it is, this year more than ever, to consider the impact of our actions on our frontline workers.

This year, more than ever before, we need to support our frontline workers. They have been making remarkable efforts since March, above and beyond the call of duty. We have asked our frontline workers to put their lives on the line in the battle against Covid-19, they should not have to cope with unnecessary difficulties over the coming days. The message is simple. We are saying to everyone this year: Please don’t add to the problem.

The Minister also asked people to continue to respect the current COVID-19 restrictions which are in place. She noted that while the vast majority of people are complying with the restrictions, others are not.

I know it’s hard, especially for young people, to be asked not to congregate and to keep distanced from each other at a time of the year usually associated with fun and celebrations. This is a very unique year where we have asked a lot of everyone but if we are to suppress the spread of Covid 19 and save lives we all need to abide by the Level 5 restrictions.

Speaking about the excellent work of an Garda Síochána, the Minister welcomed the assurance of high visibility policing of Halloween night i.e. beat, bike and mobile patrols, in order to preventing damage to property, injury, trauma for the vulnerable and the elderly, and general anti-social behaviour. An Garda Siochana will also be utilising the Divisional Public Order Unit on Halloween Night. The Gardaí will continue policing as they have done throughout the pandemic: by engaging and encouraging people to comply with public health regulations and only by enforcing as a last resort.

Notes – Illegal Fireworks Usage

Fireworks are classified as explosives and the most common constituent is black powder (gunpowder), however some contain substances that are even more dangerous. Because they are explosives, fireworks are regulated under national and EU legislation and can only be imported into the country under licence. They are stored and sold in accordance with explosives law. To date in 2018, the Department has issued approximately 318 importation licences in respect of the fireworks to be used for pyrotechnic displays.

Legislation came into effect in 2006, which make it an offence to:

  • Possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence;
  • Light unlicensed fireworks;
  • Throw or direct a lit firework at any person or property.

€10,000 fines and/or 5 years imprisonment

Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 amended the Explosives Act 1875 to give the Gardaí the power to make arrests in relation to the possession of unlicensed fireworks.

The penalties for offences are very severe. One is liable to a fine of up to €10,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment or both, for possession of unlicensed fireworks with intent to sell or supply. Igniting fireworks or throwing an ignited firework at a person or property is also liable to the same severe penalties.

Garda Initiatives

As well as the awareness raising work undertaken by the Department of Justice and Equality in the run up to Halloween, additional efforts are made by An Garda Síochána at this time of year to combat the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks, which is known as Operation Tombola.

Policing plans under the auspices of “Operation Tombola”, which are tailored to the demands and unique challenges of each Division in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, have been implemented, and commenced one month earlier than on previous years as of the 4 September, 2020. To assist local management in supplying additional personnel over the Halloween weekend, annual leave not already sanctioned for this period has been cancelled, effective as of the 4 September, 2020.

The plans under “Operation Tombola” include an overt uniform presence and a covert element where appropriate. Local Garda management throughout Dublin have engaged with relevant stakeholders including the local authority’s to identify, co-ordinate and implement an appropriate multi-agency strategy for the Halloween period. Liaison with Local Authorities, also plays an important part of “Operation Tombola”, in the removal of bonfire materials between now and Halloween.

Throughout Dublin, Community Gardaí together with the Divisional Crime Prevention Officer are promoting the awareness of the dangers associated with fireworks. Liaison with known companies previously targeted for bonfire materials has also commenced and crime prevention advice has been provided to manage waste and limit opportunities. Community Policing Units in each District work proactively with the local County Council regarding the retrieval of bonfire material. In addition, educational material regarding the danger of illegal fireworks has been distributed to all national schools via local community Gardaí and has received positive feedback.

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