Wednesday 29th October 2014

Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. Minister for Justice and Equality and James Reilly, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, on the occasion of the Foróige National Citizenship Awards Ceremony, today spoke of the dangers and penalties associated with the illegal use of fireworks.

The Ministers said they were particularly keen to convey a strong message to children and young people about not engaging in their use this Halloween.

Minister Reilly said: “Halloween should be a fun time for children. With proper care and attention it can be magical. But there are dangers also. Parents must not forget the major risks associated with bonfires and more particularly fireworks. Fireworks can cause a serious lifelong injury and sadly it is children who tend to suffer as a result of such accidents. The injuries are utterly avoidable and parents need to be extra vigilant during Halloween.”

Minister Fitzgerald said that most injuries of this nature are caused by powerful fireworks such as bangers and rockets. “The laws governing the use of such fireworks are particularly robust, and licences under the Explosives Act are only issued by my Department to professional operators who are importing fireworks for use in organised displays.”

Minister Fitzgerald noted that a number of such professional firework displays which families can enjoy are being held around the country.

“I hope that over Halloween, parents will consider accompanying their children and teenagers to one of these professionally organised displays where available. In this way, the spectacle of a fireworks display can be enjoyed by all the family in a much safer and more controlled environment.”

Ireland has strict laws governing the use of fireworks and with the exception of items such as small sparklers and party poppers; they cannot be sold to the general public within the State. However, unscrupulous traders choose to disregard the law and source fireworks from outside the State for the express purpose of selling them illegally.

Frequently the customers of those selling these illegal fireworks are children and young people. Minister Fitzgerald stressed the role of An Garda Síochána was crucial to ensuring that illegal fireworks were not easy to obtain and she praised the good work in prevention and enforcement each year.

“Prevention and enforcement are a top priority with An Garda Síochána and they engage in many pro-active steps each year. As well as putting specific provisions in place in the run up to Halloween, particular attention is paid to the Dublin Metropolitan Region and Border Divisions. This level of activity on the part of An Garda Síochána plays a significant role in detecting the organised importation of illegal fireworks and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.”

The Minister also referred to the severe criminal penalties that apply in respect of illegal fireworks. “While I have already made my views known on the dangers of fireworks, I believe it is most important that people are made aware of the severe penalties that rightly apply. For example, simply having illegal fireworks in your possession can result in a fine of up to €10,000. The same fine and penalties of up to five years' imprisonment apply to the possession of illegal fireworks with intent to sell or supply and to igniting the fireworks or throwing an ignited firework at a person or property”.

The Minister spoke of a public information notice placed by her Department each year in the print media highlighting public safety and the illegality of fireworks. She said that no one should be in any doubt about the consequences of a breach of legislation and the penalties that will apply as a result.

Minister Reilly concluded by asking all citizens to play their part. “Everyone has a role to play in creating a safe environment in which to enjoy Halloween. Anyone partaking in activities that involve the use of unlicensed fireworks is not only engaging in an illegal activity but potentially putting the safety and indeed the lives of others at risk. I can therefore only appeal to people to take a sensible approach this Halloween and to leave fireworks to the professionals.”