Thursday, 21 October 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
91. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if discussions are expected in the coming weeks with the Garda Commissioner on the plans of An Garda Síochána to ensure a safe Hallowe'en; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51093/21]
This is probably a question that comes up this time every year. Will the Minister make a statement on discussions or actions with the Garda Commissioner and An Garda Síochána on a safe Hallowe'en? I am particularly concerned about the prevalence of fireworks, the nature, scale and size of bonfires and the materials being put on them.
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue regarding safety at Hallowe'en. I am very aware of the distressing impact the improper use and misuse of fireworks has on our communities. Every year, as Hallowe'en approaches, my Department runs a safety awareness campaign aimed at highlighting to the public the very real dangers of illegal fireworks and bonfires. As the Deputy may be aware, I launched this year's campaign, in collaboration with the ISPCA, Dublin Fire Brigade and An Garda Síochána, at the Dublin Fire Brigade Training Centre on 22 September. I am sure the Deputy will be aware of the risks posed by fireworks, particularly to children and animals. I thank the media because they have given it good coverage to make people aware of the dangers of fireworks that go wrong.
As Minister for Justice, it is important for me to be clear in saying that fireworks, because they are explosives, are regulated under national and EU legislation and can only be imported into the country under licence and stored and sold in accordance with explosives laws.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including operational policing matters. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. However, I am assured by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána will be working right across the country to keep people, including their colleagues in our front-line services, safe during the Hallowe'en period.
Additional efforts are being made by An Garda Síochána under Operation Tombola to combat the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks and to address related public order and antisocial behaviour. This operation has an overt uniform presence and a covert element where appropriate to disrupt firework-related and other forms of antisocial behaviour.
I thank the Minister. I am reassured to know there is such action on fireworks. I was at Crumlin children's hospital late one night and the amount of fireworks going off was an absolute disgrace. I do not know what kind of an idiot sets off fireworks near a children's hospital that late at night. We really do need to take action on their prevalence. They seem to be going off for weeks and weeks in advance. Some people even set them off during the day. I do not know what is in somebody's head that they want to light fireworks during the day.
It is the responsibility of the Garda, the fire service and the local authorities. They do very good work in these areas. However, it can become confrontational when they go to address bonfires. We need to have community involvement in this also. Neighbours are intimidated by the level of fireworks and the activity around bonfires. Some people seem to think it is okay to drag whatever piece of domestic rubbish and waste they have in their house and dump it on the local bonfire. It is a way for people to get rid of their three-piece suite of furniture or fridge freezer. The council is then left to clean it up. It is very unfair on the residents in these estates to be left with the mess afterwards.
I thank the Deputy. I know the Garda works closely with communities. Operation Tombola is directly targeted at delivering a range of initiatives to tackle the sale of fireworks and to prevent associated public disorder and antisocial behaviour through the incremental deployment of Garda resources. It engages with communities and through the various fora. It will encourage people not to engage in this type of activity. Fireworks in the wrong hands could possibly mean no hands because they do terrible damage. In County Monaghan there has been great co-operation between the council, the Garda and communities. They organise one big fireworks display. It is very effective and successful. Communities could come together and pool their resources to put on one decent display instead of things firing off around the country.
I was going to suggest that as something to do. Hallowe'en is a great event for children. People enjoy it and it is fine. We want to have safety and responsibility. I am concerned for people around a bonfire where we do not even know what has been thrown onto it and what could result from something being burned on it and the fumes coming off it. There is nobody to marshal it or monitor what is going on. Perhaps something we could look at with local authorities, fire services and the Garda is having one centralised bonfire with marshalling and co-ordination.
I agree with the Deputy. The local government sector messages on Hallowe'en, working with the Garda Síochána, place emphasis on fire safety issues with fireworks and encouraging the public to report if they are aware of people gathering pallets or other materials for bonfires in order that they can be safely removed before Hallowe'en, emphasising the environmental damage and the damage to the landscape that bonfires can cause, and the huge distress it causes for dogs and other animals. It is terrible to hear fireworks going off because they are terribly distressed. It is also an issue for older people. The fact the Deputy has raised this creates an awareness and a need for people in communities to work with local members of the Garda and local authorities. I thank the Deputy for raising it.