Community Safety and Fireworks: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Mark Ward on Tuesday, 22 September 2020:
That Dáil Éireann:
acknowledges:
— the number of Community Gardaí across the State has fallen from 1,182 in 2010 to 710 in July 2020, with a drop in Community Garda numbers in the Dublin Metropolitan Region decreasing by 45 per cent from 508 in 2010 to 278 in July 2020;
— the number of Gardaí assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan Region in August 2020 at 4,059 remains below 2010 figures at 4,160;
— that the Programme for Government makes a commitment to ‘prioritise visible policing in both rural and urban communities’ and ‘remove Gardaí from administrative, technical and other non-core duties to allow them to focus on policing matters’;
— the fear and anxiety felt throughout communities, particularly in urban areas in the run up to Halloween, caused by early onset of the misuse of fireworks;
— that several serious incidents have been reported, including fireworks being thrown at those attending a vigil for a hit and run victim, fireworks being thrown in letterboxes and pedestrians being targeted by fireworks;
— the threat caused by these actions to public services and community facilities such as local bus services, sports pitches and public parks;
— the impact of the use of illegal fireworks on the resources of emergency services, with over 900 calls to Dublin Fire Brigade on Halloween night 2018, including over 300 ambulance call-outs, and the Dublin Fire Brigade being called out to approximately 180 emergency incidents on Halloween night in 2019;
— the safety risk posed by the use of illegal fireworks and the increasing possibility of serious injuries in the absence of effective measures to prevent the unlicensed import, sale and distribution of illegal fireworks;
— the significant noise pollution and disturbance to the wider community caused by the illegal and frequent use of fireworks, which is particularly distressing for elderly people, young children and animals; and
— that the start date for Operation Tombola, which commenced on 4th September, 2020, is ineffective given that multiple incidents have been reported well in advance of the operations commencement; and
calls on the Government to:
— ensure that the frequency of Garda patrols in communities most affected by these actions is immediately increased and commit to restoring the number of Gardaí assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan Region to a minimum of 2010 levels by 2021;
— immediately increase the recruitment of Garda civilian staff to help facilitate an increased Garda presence in communities;
— commit to a minimum recruitment of 800 Gardaí per annum, with priority deployment in the area of community safety;
— immediately establish a joint taskforce between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) under Operation Tombola, to proactively work to combat the distribution, sale and use of illegal fireworks;
— establish a confidential and dedicated telephone line to allow members of the public to report instances of the misuse of fireworks;
— immediately roll out a public and school awareness campaign incorporating Dublin Fire Brigade and the Gardaí, including engagements with schools, community groups and youth organisations, to highlight the dangers of the misuse of fireworks;
— commit to providing a report on Operation Tombola to the Houses of the Oireachtas before 31st December, 2020, identifying areas for improvement in resourcing and making recommendations in respect of same to develop an annual strategy for the effective combating of the importation, sale and use of illegal fireworks;
— immediately commence public consultation to run until after the Halloween period, involving community groups, youth organisations and the wider public, to identify the extent of the impact of the misuse of fireworks and to ensure that resources are effectively targeted in areas most affected and the views of effected communities are incorporated into the annual strategy; and
— commit to the establishment of Operation Tombola on an annual basis to commence no later than 1st July, and ensure that the operation is sufficiently resourced and involves joint co-operation with the PSNI.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“notes:
— the commitment in the Programme for Government to close engagement between An Garda Síochána and local communities;
— the Government’s commitment to implement the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland entitled ‘A Policing Service for the Future’, including the key action for the redeployment of members of An Garda Síochána away from noncore duties and into communities;
— the new Garda Operating Model which will reorganise resources around the delivery of frontline policing, emphasising engagement with communities and supporting victims of crime;
— the commitment of Government to continue recruitment to An Garda Síochána;
— the recruitment of more than 3,500 additional Gardaí since 2014, amounting to 14,648 Garda members at the end of August 2020, with an additional 3,344 civilian staff;
— that in addition to the 4,059 Gardaí assigned to the Dublin Metropolitan Region at the end of August 2020, 429 Garda civilian staff were also assigned to this region, which is an increase of 184 on the figure in 2010, supporting the release of Garda members from noncore duties to front line policing duties;
— that Gardaí in all regions are also supported by national specialist units such as the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau;
— that in 2020 to date, 520 Garda trainees have been attested as sworn members of An Garda Síochána;
— the Government’s commitment to combatting the use of unlicensed fireworks in the State, by restricting the availability of all hazardous fireworks to the general public;
— that the penalties for offences related to unlicensed fireworks are severe, such as fines of up to €10,000 or up to five years imprisonment;
— that licences under the Explosives Act, 1875, are issued by the Department of Justice and Equality only for the importation of fireworks to be used in organised displays conducted by professional and competent operators;
— that throughout the Dublin Metropolitan Region, Community Gardaí together with the Divisional Crime Prevention Officer, working in conjunction with Dublin Fire
Brigade, will promote the awareness of the dangers associated with fireworks;
— that in response to a noted increase in concerns relating to unlicensed fireworks the Garda Operation Tombola commenced on 4th September, which is one month earlier than in previous years;
— that under Operation Tombola, Gardaí have put in place local operational plans to tackle the sale of fireworks, including through high visibility policing and utilising the Divisional Public Order Units as appropriate;
— that since 16th August, 2020, An Garda Síochána have seized a significant number of fireworks, in some instances resulting in prosecutions;
— the Department of Justice and Equality’s annual safety campaign, aimed at ensuring the public is aware of the dangers of illegal fireworks and bonfires;
— An Garda Síochána’s partnership approach to problem solving with the community and other agencies in the policing of the Halloween period and the importance of
local Gardaí continuing to receive information directly from communities; and
— the very strong cooperation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána, which takes place via a range of measures including a crossborder policing strategy, an annual crossborder seminar on organised crime, the Joint Agency Task Force and through parallel investigations and Joint Investigation Teams;
recognises:
— that despite the Government’s policy on the matter, the use of unlicensed fireworks continues to be a problem and presents a significant safety risk, particularly in the weeks leading up to Halloween;
— the disturbance and distress caused by the unregulated and illegal use of fireworks in the lead up to Halloween and the impact on quality of life;
— the risk to health and safety of persons, animals, businesses and property by the illegal and unsupervised use of fireworks;
— the risk of injury, in particular to young children who are exposed to, or use illegal fireworks;
— the fear that can be experienced, in particular by elderly people in our communities and the impact on household pets and agricultural livestock; and
— the particular importance this year, given the impact of Covid19, that all steps are taken to prevent any additional strain on the public health system which could result from firework related injuries;
supports the Government’s:
— commitment to prioritise visible policing in communities and to redeploy Gardaí from noncore duties to enable an enhanced focus on policing matters, including community policing;
— plan to extend the powers of An Garda Síochána to use closed-circuit television (CCTV) to help prevent crime and prosecute those involved;
— commitment to establish an expert forum on antisocial behaviour;
— intention to introduce a national community safety policy and to develop community safety partnerships in every local electoral area which will bring together communities, An Garda Síochána, local authorities and essential services from across Government to jointly tackle community safety issues;
— commitment to introduce a new Youth Justice Strategy in the coming months which will bring together the full range of communitybased youth justice interventions to be tailored for the needs of local communities; and
— commitment to keep under review the start date for Operation Tombola each year to ensure a timely response; and
reaffirms:
— its ongoing support for An Garda Síochána and the work the Gardaí do every day on behalf of communities across the country;
— its support of the Government’s commitment to support communities and take all necessary steps to reduce incidence of antisocial behaviour, including the illegal use of fireworks; and
— its support of the Government’s commitment to work with communities and support them in accessing the right services and empowering them to be involved in issues affecting their quality of life.
- (Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy James Browne)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to amendment No. 2 in the name of the Minister for Justice and Equality to the motion on community safety and fireworks. On Tuesday, 22 September 2020 on the question, "That the amendment be made", a division was claimed and that division must now be taken.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 19; Staon, 0.

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Denise Mitchell and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Amendment declared carried.
Amendment No. 1 not moved.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 19; Staon, 0.

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Denise Mitchell and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Question declared carried.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.34 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 24 September 2020.