Every year since at least 2005, in the run up to Halloween, the Gardai roll out Operation Tombola.
The main aim of the Operation is to disrupt, seize and prevent the supply of illegal fireworks and to mitigate the associated public disorder and anti-social behaviour that usually goes with such sales.
As the law currently stands anyone convicted of having unlicensed fireworks in their possession with an intent to sell or supply can face a fine of up to €10,000 or up to five years imprisonment or both.
That’s a pretty severe series of penalties. Yet despite this, it is highly questionable what the positive net result of this annual Operation has been.
We know that working class communities, particularly in the greater Dublin area have seen a massive escalation in the use of fireworks and powerful ‘bangers.’
This is a problem that has been ongoing for several years, but as I say, there has been a noticeable and almost nightly rise in this activity recently.
According to one Dublin North-West TD, who raised the matter with the Minister for Justice earlier this week, this has included cases of fireworks “been thrown at people, animals, cars, buses and shops, resulting in injuries and damage. I have been told by vets that they have seen increasing numbers of dogs, cats and other animals having been injured and suffering high levels of stress and anxiety.”
Rosie petrified by the fireworks & bangers for about a month now and still 8 weeks to Halloween. What is actually going on in Dublin? pic.twitter.com/78OExTfpke
— Liam Geraghty 😷 (@Liam_Geraghty) August 31, 2020
It is not only unfortunate animals or property owners who have borne the brunt of this anti-social behaviour.
Even children have been attacked. Here is what the Dublin North-West TD told the Dáil:
“Some recent incidents include one in Ballymun, where a rocket was fired into the back garden of a house, which resulted in a pet dog receiving serious injuries, or another in Ringsend, where a number of days ago a young person was hit in the face with a rocket, resulting in her needing hospital treatment. There was still another incident in Finglas, where a firework was directed at the face of a child.”
On the ‘positive’ side, at least there does not appear to be any ageists or ableists amongst the scumbags who engage in this kind of ‘fun,’:
“Older residents who are cocooning feel trapped. They cannot escape the endless grating racket of exploding bangers and rockets.”
“Those who have highly trained service or assistance dogs fear for their dogs’ well-being. Autism companion dogs, for example, act as a constant companion to children with autism in their home environment..Children with autism are particularly susceptible to noise and any disruption to their already difficult lives, and this causes no end of anxiety and stress.”
Let’s be clear; the problem is not a lack of legislation.
Between the Criminal Justice Act 2006, 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 there is more than enough law there to deal with this problem.
The issue is both a lack of garda resources and what appears to be a certain level of indifference because of where the fireworks and bangers are being released; working class communities.
One Finglas resident was recently reported as saying:
“This has been going on for weeks now. Last Sunday night, fireworks hit my neighbours’ houses. Finglas Garda station had been called multiple times and never came down or done anything.”
Perhaps as one TD put it, the gardai are now more concerned at checking if people “had bangers and mash in a pub” than they are about bangers and other fireworks being thrown at members of the public.
That same TD went on to say that a newborn baby had a lucky escape recently, after somebody posted a banger through a letter box through the parent’s home in Palmerstown.
If the history of Operation Tombola from 2005 is anything to go by, then it would certainly appear that the residents of these communities will have little or no respite this year either.
Never mind; perhaps they can fashion a makeshift noise prevention type of cladding from all of the photo ops that are bound to be forthcoming between Minister Helen McEntee and the Garda Commissioner in the approach to Halloween.