Use of fireworks close to children’s hospital criticised by TD

Burning on rubbish and danger of bonfires also highlighted in run up to Hallowe’en

Two cars alight and a fallen lamppost blocking the entrance to an estate in Fortunestown, Tallaght at Hallowe’en in 2019. Photograph: Dublin Fire Brigade/Twitter

Two cars alight and a fallen lamppost blocking the entrance to an estate in Fortunestown, Tallaght at Hallowe’en in 2019. Photograph: Dublin Fire Brigade/Twitter

 

Hallowe’en bonfires are being used as an excuse by some people to “get rid of their three-piece suite of furniture or fridge freezer” and leave local authorities to clean up the mess afterwards, the Dáil has heard.

Green Party TD Steven Matthews also expressed concern about the materials being put on bonfires and he sharply criticised the extensive use of fireworks in the run up to Hallowe’en on October 31st.

The Wicklow TD said he was at Crumlin children’s hospital late one night “and the amount of fireworks going off was an absolute disgrace. I don’t know what kind of an idiot sets off fireworks near a children’s hospital that late at night.”

Stressing the need for action to deal with their extensive use he said “they seem to be going off for weeks and weeks in advance. Some people even set them off during the day. I don’t know what’s in someone’s head that they want to light fireworks during the day.”

Speaking during justice question time, he also hit out at the materials used in bonfires marking the festival.

“Some people seem to think it’s okay to drag whatever piece of domestic rubbish and waste they have in their house and dump it on the local bonfire.

“It’s 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’s very unfair on the residents in these estates to be left with the mess afterwards.”

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said that local authorities working with the Garda encourage the public to report people gathering pallets or other materials for bonfires, so that they can be safely removed before Hallowe’en.

Ms Humphreys said she was “very aware of the distressing impact the improper use and misuse of fireworks has on our communities”.

She also highlighted the “huge distress it causes for dogs and other animals. It’s terrible to hear fireworks going off because they are terribly distressed. It’s also an issue for older people.”

The Minister also stressed the dangers of fireworks and warned that “fireworks in the wrong hands could possibly mean no hands because they do terrible damage”.

Every year in the run up to the festival the Department of Justice runs a safety awareness campaign to highlight “the very real dangers of illegal fireworks and bonfires”.

The Minister said she had no direct role in these matters but “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”.

She stressed that fireworks are explosives and “can only be imported into the country under licence and stored and sold in accordance with explosives laws”.

Under its “Operation Tombola” gardaí were making efforts “to combat the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks and to address related public order and antisocial behaviour”.

This includes the involvement of gardaí in uniform “and a covert element where appropriate to disrupt firework-related and other forms of antisocial behaviour”.

Mr Matthews acknowledged the work of the Garda, the fire service and the local authorities but he said “it can become confrontational when they go to address bonfires” and community involvement was needed.

“Neighbours are intimidated by the level of fireworks and the activity around bonfires,” he said.

He also expressed concern for people standing around bonfires “where we don’t even know what’s been thrown onto it and what could result from something being burned on it and the fumes coming off it”.

The Minister said that many people engage with local authorities and the Garda for community events and in her own constituency in Co Monaghan “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.”