The Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, is probably aware of the young student of the Dominican College Cabra, who is from Finglas in his constituency, who had a terrifying experience during the week when a banger was thrown at her, damaging her hand and neck to the extent that it is thought she will require plastic surgery.
Similar incidents of this nature occur every year. Fireworks, as he will be aware, are illegally imported into this jurisdiction and they are in the control and possession of young, irresponsible people for a period of up to two months in the run-up to Hallowe'en.
Explosions occur at all times of the day and night. The elderly are frightened of the loud bangs as well as the possibility of having an incendiary device put through their letter boxes. Pallets and tyres are collected for vast bonfires, again with no adult control.
In response, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, has spent the past four and a half years trumpeting various proposals he intended to introduce in his new Bill, the Criminal Justice Act 2006 — which at last has seen the light of day — and said that he would deal with the illegal importation, possession, sale and use of fireworks in it. His proposals involve nothing more than inserting a provision in the Criminal Justice Act which increases penalties for existing offences — possession, igniting, propelling and intent to sell or supply illegal fireworks without a licence.
There are no proposals whatsoever to synchronise the legislation in this jurisdiction with that in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, from whence almost all the illegal fireworks emanate. Neither has the Minister any plans to deal with the issue on the ground. He has no proposals for protecting the young and the elderly from injury like that experienced by the young schoolgirl to whom I referred. It is left to the local authority to organise meetings with the Fire Brigade, the Civil Defence and the Garda, who are under the Minister's control, to endeavour to put some co-ordinated approach together to address the issues of illegal activities and anti-social behaviour at this time.
It is high time the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform began to realise that there are serious problems in the community and that they require more than the passage of legislation and a few ministerial soundbites. They require strong leadership from the Minister, which is not forthcoming, and a multi-agency co-ordinated plan of action on the ground that should be led by the Garda Síochána.