“I’m not trying to be a killjoy,” said Deirdre Heney, the Fianna Fáil councillor, at a recent meeting of the council’s arts and culture committee.
Her motivation for tabling a motion to restrict fireworks at council or council-backed events was concern, she said. “The use of fireworks has a detrimental effect on humans and their pets.”
It impacts, in particular, people with dementia, she says. “It’s not just a nuisance, it causes absolutely chaotic situations and huge upset.”
After the discussions, councillors on the committee voted for the motion, with 10 in favour. But three voted against, saying that changing council policy right now might backfire, leading to a rise in the illegal use of fireworks.
People Before Profit Councillor Hazel de Nortúin and Sinn Féin Councillors Séamas McGrattan warned that the move could cause problems at Halloween in the areas that they represent – which include Cherry Orchard, Ballyfermot and Cabra.
The council organises Halloween events to divert people away from unorganised events where there may be anti-social behaviour, said McGrattan. “The events we put on have to be credible, they have to attract crowds.”
Dublin City Council didn’t respond before publication to queries as to what its current policy is on fireworks and what happens to the motion next.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that it has granted permission for the importation of fireworks for 500 organised events nationwide, so far in 2022.
Instead of fireworks, Dublin City Council should use – and promote the use of – alternative forms of entertainment, said Heney’s motion.
Dogs can get really upset at the sound of fireworks, as can other city animals, including those at St Anne’s City Farm, she said, at the meeting. “There is a huge environmental aspect to fireworks as well.”
The council organises excellent Halloween events that don’t involve fireworks, said Heney. Like the Bram Stoker Festival, she said.
Heney said she thinks there will be fireworks in the city this New Year’s Eve. But organisers should explore alternatives, she said.
Dublin City Council Executive Manager Anthony Flynn said the city’s New Year’s Eve event is being organised by Fáilte Ireland.
The council doesn’t have the authority to stop other agencies from organising firework displays, Flynn said.
Dublin Fire Brigade has an advisory role. But the decision to give permission for a fireworks display lies with the Department of Justice, said Flynn.
In general, the council has “gone down the avenue of not having any fireworks displays in our events”, said Flynn.
Some local events do have them though. “There probably would be scope with regards to Dublin City Council events in general if it was agreed,” said Flynn.
Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney said she supported the motion for environmental reasons.
Fireworks contribute to carbon emissions, she said. “Most of us have enjoyed fireworks displays. We may not have been aware of the pollutant that it emits.”
Said Social Democrats Councillor Cat O’Driscoll: “I think fireworks are primarily a hazard for air quality and people with respiratory issues. I’ve certainly fallen out of love with them.”
There are excellent alternatives which can wow a crowd, she says. “I’ve seen incredible drone displays and incredible laser displays.”
Weighing It Up
Three councillors said that while they support the idea behind Heney’s motion, the priority in their areas is to try to divert people away from unorganised Halloween events.
Locals in her area, Ballyfermot, would worry if the council announced it wasn’t putting on a firework display at Halloween, said de Nortúin, the People Before Profit councillor.
“There would be a huge outcry,” she said. “Some areas are just at a level of stability that anything can rock it either way.”
She would support the idea that the council try out drones and other means to illuminate the sky, she says. But they would need to be proven before fireworks are taken away, she said.
Sinn Féin councillor, Micheál MacDonncha said the council should look into the use of silent fireworks so as not to disturb animals.
Banning fireworks from organised council events could lead to an increase in more risky unorganised displays, he said. “I think we need to be a bit more strategic.”
Heney said events like the Bram Stoker Festival do provide credible alternatives to fireworks displays at Halloween. “I’m convinced that your constituents wouldn’t want to go back because it’s an absolutely fabulous event.”
On the phone on 2 December, independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said the main problems with fireworks come when they are used irresponsibly and illegally.
“The main complaint we get is when they are put through people’s letterboxes,” he said. “Or where people have large amounts of them and they are letting them off willy-nilly.”
In the past there were alot more injuries from fireworks and from bonfires around Halloween, Flynn said. The council, working together with the Gardaí, has succeeded in significantly reducing those injuries, by diverting people towards organised events
Fireworks can be purchased very easily an hour away in Newry, he said, so “banning them at organised events would be just crazy”.
He understands Heney’s concerns in terms of animal welfare. “They actually can disturb animals. But where they are appropriately used and there is ample warning, it’s a different situation.”
Animal welfare groups in the UK are calling for a more responsible approach to the use of fireworks, not banning of organised events, he said.
An information campaign to educate people about the impact that the uncontrolled use of fireworks has on pets and other animals, might be more effective, said Flynn.
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