Gardaí are more concerned at checking if people had if people “had bangers and mash in a pub” than they are about bangers and other fireworks being thrown at members of the public, a Sinn Féin TD has claimed.
The Garda’s annual Operation Tombola campaign to tackle the illegal use of fireworks, which runs up to Hallowe’en, is currently under way, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said.
Fireworks can only officially be purchased by licence and for use in displays but the regulations are regularly flouted and Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward said "it is having a huge and detrimental impact" on local communities.
The Dublin Mid-West TD said the situation “has been going on longer this year than in other years” as he highlighted a number of incidents in his constituency.
“A newborn baby had a lucky escape last weekend, after somebody posted a banger through a letter box in Palmerstown,” he said.
Separately, in Ringsend, a teenage girl suffered facial injuries in an incident with fireworks and will require surgery for treatment.
“Customers in parts of Clondalkin and Lucan are afraid to use their local shops. People will also not walk their dogs because of the distress that the noise is causing to their pets,” said Mr Ward.
He said that bus routes have also been curtailed, which has resulted in people having to walk through areas at night where fireworks could be aimed at them.
Mr Ward claimed Operation Tombola was not “fit for purpose” as there were insufficient community gardaí. “The public perception is that gardaí are less concerned about bangers being thrown at the public than if the public had bangers and mash in a pub in the last 28 days”.
Ms McEntee acknowledged that the use of illegal fireworks already was “surprising and concerning given how far out we are from Hallowe’en”.
Gardaí were working very hard on Operation Tombola to prevent the importation, sale and distribution of illegal fireworks. They were involved in intelligence-led operations, visits to local car boot sales and searches and seizures of fireworks,said Ms McEntee.
“Perhaps that operation needs to start even sooner,” she said.
The Minister said she was “all too conscious of the numerous incidents, and sadly some serious accidents arising from the use of illegal fireworks” and she acknowledged it was “particularly acute this year for some reason”.
Her department is also running an annual public safety campaign “aimed at ensuring the public is aware of the dangers of illegal fireworks and bonfires”.
The Garda press office said it did not comment on “remarks made by third parties” when asked about Mr Ward’s claims
In a statement, it said “a special effort is made” every year as Hallowe’en approaches to combat illegal fireworks and every Garda division puts in place a range of measures to tackle their sale.
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”.
Gardaí appealed to parents to “be responsible in ensuring that their children do not cause injury to either themselves or others on Halloween night” and to take bangers or fireworks if they discover their children have them.
“Each year many children and young people suffer terrible injuries caused by fireworks, including burns, loss of limbs and serious eye injuries”.
Anyone with information on the illegal sale of fireworks should contact their local Garda station or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 - 666 - 111.