While I have not stayed in Dublin in the last few nights, I have friends who live here and they have highlighted this issue to me a number of weeks ago, which was surprising and concerning given how far out we are from Hallowe'en.
The importation of fireworks is controlled under law in the interests of safety and security. Government policy restricts the availability of all hazardous fireworks to the public. Licences under the Explosives Act 1875 are issued by my Department but only for the importation of fireworks which are to be used in organised displays conducted by professional and competent operators. Having said that, I am all too conscious of the numerous incidents, and sadly some serious accidents arising from the use of illegal fireworks. I understand this is particularly acute this year for some reason. Every year, as we approach Hallowe'en, my Department runs a public safety campaign. This is aimed at ensuring the public is aware of the dangers of illegal fireworks and bonfires.
As for what the Garda can do, examples of the penalties faced include a fine of up to €10,000 and up to five years' imprisonment if convicted of having fireworks in one's possession with intent to sell or supply. Igniting fireworks or throwing an ignited firework at a person or property is also liable to severe penalty. These penalties demonstrate the seriousness attached to breaches of the legislation governing the importation and use of fireworks. As well as the awareness-raising work undertaken by my Department in the run up to Hallowe'en, 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.
As the Deputy is aware, section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides that the Commissioner is responsible for the direction and control of An Garda Síochána. The Garda Commissioner is also responsible for the day-to-day management of An Garda Síochána, which includes the investigation of alleged crimes, including in relation to the importation and sale of fireworks, and I have no role in these matters. However, as I have just outlined there are clear penalties for those who breach these rules.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Garda Commissioner has informed me that under Operation Tombola each district will put in place an operational plan to tackle the sale of fireworks including through: combating the importation, sale and distribution of illegal fireworks; intelligence-led operations; visits to local car boot sales; searches and seizures of fireworks; liaising with local authorities and fire services regarding the provision of official, supervised bonfire sites; the policing of these; the identification and removal of stockpiled bonfire material and abandoned vehicles from other locations; promoting awareness of the danger associated with the improper use of fireworks and unsupervised bonfires through the use of the media and social media; school visits and information leaflet distribution by members and the crime prevention officer; high visibility policing of the Hallowe'en night celebrations, that is, beat, bike and mobile patrols, thus preventing damage to property, injury, trauma for the vulnerable and the elderly and general loutish behaviour; and utilising the divisional public order unit on Hallowe'en night.
Operation Tombola also focuses on preventing associated public disorder and anti-social behaviour through the incremental deployment of resources, including Garda public order units to augment local plans as appropriate. As well as Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which gives An Garda Síochána the power to make arrests in relation to the possession of unlicensed fireworks, a number of strong legislative provisions are available to the Garda to combat anti-social behaviour more generally and include the Criminal Damage Act 1991; the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994; the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003; and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.