The daily and nightly misuse of fireworks is a menace in our communities. Throughout the country and particularly in Dublin, there has been an unprecedented level of use. With Hallowe'en more than a month away and no sign of their use abating, I shudder to think what we are in for. There have been many cases of fireworks having been thrown at people, animals, cars, buses and shops, resulting in injuries and damage. I have been told by vets that they have seen increasing numbers of dogs, cats and other animals having been injured and suffering high levels of stress and anxiety.
Some recent incidents include one in Ballymun, where a rocket was fired into the back garden of a house, which resulted in a pet dog receiving serious injuries, or another in Ringsend, where a number of days ago a young person was hit in the face with a rocket, resulting in her needing hospital treatment. There was still another incident in Finglas, where a firework was directed at the face of a child, who also received serious injuries. These are just a few examples of what has become a daily practice in our communities. It seems to many people that the strength and power of these fireworks is far greater than we experienced in the past. As the Minister of State will be aware, while this is a problem that can be found throughout Dublin, it is most prevalent in mainly working class districts, although it is not exclusive to them.
The sale, possession or use of fireworks is illegal, and the Garda has the powers to confiscate fireworks from anyone who does not have the necessary authorisation or permit to possess them. Their seemingly endless supply, however, suggests this is just not happening. Older residents who are cocooning feel trapped. They cannot escape the endless grating racket of exploding bangers and rockets. Those who have highly trained service or assistance dogs fear for their dogs' well-being. Autism companion dogs, for example, act as a constant companion to children with autism in their home environment. They give the child a sense of responsibility, reassurance and support, and help to control and improve his or her behaviour. They help to promote calmness and act as a safety aid to the parents. Children with autism are particularly susceptible to noise and any disruption to their already difficult lives, and this causes no end of anxiety and stress.
The number of community gardaí in the Dublin metropolitan region dropped from 508 in 2010 to 278 in July 2020, a 55% drop in numbers. On top of this, since Covid-19 began, community gardaí have been instructed not to work past 7 p.m., which is ridiculous. Operation Tombola has, supposedly, been ongoing since 4 September, despite the clear indicators that this problem has been ongoing since July. At its monthly meeting, Dublin City Council passed an emergency motion urging the Garda to use its full powers to combat this problem, which include laws on the possession of illegal fireworks and their use to commit assault. The council is calling for the Garda Commissioner and the assistant commissioner for the Dublin metropolitan region to release adequate resources, including the removal of the overtime ban, to ensure gardaí respond swiftly and adequately, that a task force involving gardaí, council officials, emergency services and councillors be set up and that transport services also be included, given that bus and rail services have been targeted by this recklessness, for which young people, in the main, are responsible. A public awareness campaign, involving schools, community groups and youth organisations, should be launched to press home the dangers and the possible consequences, particularly as Hallowe'en approaches.