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Brexit and supply chain issues have led to fewer illegal fireworks in Ireland

Gardaí have launched Operation Tombola while Customs have targeted shipments arriving into Ireland via the postal network.

A licenced fireworks display above the town of Cobh at the annual People's Regatta.
A licenced fireworks display above the town of Cobh at the annual People's Regatta.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

GARDAÍ HAVE SEEN a marked decrease in the amount of illegal fireworks on Irish streets this year while Customs have increased the number of seizures, The Journal has learned.

The Halloween season normally sees large quantities of fireworks going off across Irish towns and cities from September onwards. 

However supply chain issues in the UK due to Brexit and the global supply crunch means that stocks there are down by as much as 70%, which has led to fewer being made available for purchase in Ireland illegally. 

A garda spokesperson told The Journal that figures have yet to be compiled but this year’s seizures are expected to be down ‘a lot’ on last year.

“There is some evidence that there are less of them – the reason for that is hard to say but there has been a lot less,” he said.

Operational sources have said, anecdotally, that there are less calls and less seizures than in previous years.

Sources in Kerry, Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick all said that there has been a decrease in the use of fireworks compared to previous years. 

“There is definitely less than in previous years – there are still complaints coming in for them being set off but there are less seizures.

“They are normally sold by people at car boot sales, market stalls, that kind of thing but also just straight from a house.

“The gardaí hear about these places and go and execute warrants – but there isn’t as much of that going on this year and that is a sign that they are not as prevalent,” a senior source said.

The possession of fireworks is illegal in Ireland and they can only be imported into the State with a licence.

Sources have said that organised criminals have been involved in the importation of fireworks via Northern Ireland but added that it is much more likely that individual people travel to the North to buy them.

The shortage of fireworks, according to an investigation by The Guardian, can be blamed on Brexit and the global supply chain crisis.   

It has been reported that importation problems have forced up prices and reduced stocks by up to 70% in the UK. 

Changes to paperwork in the UK due to Brexit has caused a shortfall, according to British-based distributor Fireworks Kingdom. 

Richard Hogg told The Guardian: “Importing fireworks has become very difficult and unstable in the wake of Brexit. Our industry is being hit particularly hard, receiving just 30% of the usual annual supply.”

The main issue centres around the switch from the Europe-wide CE safety label to a UKCA mark which will come into effect in 2023 – this has halted wholesalers stocking up on products that will not have the required label.

Customs

A Customs spokesperson said that the organisation has seen a marked increase in seizures of fireworks. 

“In relation to seizures of fireworks, I can confirm that, since 1 January 2021, a total of 11 consignments of fireworks have been seized by Revenue officers. For comparison purposes, in 2020, a total of 3 consignments of fireworks were seized.

“The consignments seized arrived into Ireland either via the postal system or via one of our trade ports. As you will appreciate, Revenue statistics are compiled in response to our business needs and having regard to the information available to us.

“No further firework related statistics are compiled in the normal course and therefore no additional information other than the statistics above are available,” the spokesperson said.   

The Customs spokesperson said that officers had changed their detection methods as smugglers changed their methods during the pandemic.

“Over the course of the past 18 months the Covid-19 global pandemic has impacted the economy and the movement of people.

“For example, we have seen an increase in online shopping worldwide, non-essential travel was not permitted for many months and non-essential retail premises were closed for extended periods.

“It is also too early to provide an accurate analysis of the impact of Brexit on imported goods, especially when considering the particular increases in postal and shipped items caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

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Operation Tombola

fireworks A garda seizure of €1,000 in Clonmel in September. Source: Garda Press Office

A garda spokesperson said that they have reignited Operation Tombola – their annual nationwide initiative to deal with anti-social behaviour problems and fireworks arising from the Halloween period.

The spokesperson said that data will be collated following the Halloween period and released to the public at that time.

They also warned of the risk of injury from fireworks, as well as the ‘great distress and annoyance’ they can cause to older people. 

“Each year, many people, including children, suffer terrible injuries caused by fireworks, including burns, loss of limbs and serious eye injuries,” the spokesperson said. 

“The sale, possession or use of fireworks in this country is illegal. It is also illegal to possess any fireworks that may have been legally purchased outside of the jurisdiction and then brought into the State and Gardaí will confiscate any fireworks found in the possession of persons and such persons are also liable to prosecution.

The issue has been mentioned in the Dáil, with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys both vowing to deal with the anti-social behaviour problem. 

“I am aware of the distressing impact the improper use of fireworks has on our communities and I share the concerns of the Deputies and of the local communities affected,” Humphreys said. 

“I know the fear and distress fireworks being set off causes our elderly family members and neighbours and people with sensory challenges and other vulnerabilities. They also have a terrible impact on pets and other animals and livestock.”

The Taoiseach, in his comments in the Dáil in response to a question from Deputy Sean Haughey, said that he recalled the enjoyment of bonfires in years gone by but said that times have changed. 

“I would like to think we have moved on from that era because bonfires are pollutants.

“They are dangerous as well, when one considers what is thrown into them today. Anti-social behaviour should be stamped out. We will work with the Garda and the authorities on the matter of illegal fireworks. That is a fair point. We want that time of year for children to enjoy,” he said. 

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