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Smugglers of fireworks to face criminal charges

PEOPLE who attempt to smuggle fireworks from the North will face criminal prosecution and could have their cars confiscated, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Michael McDowell warned yesterday.

He acknowledged that people were "queuing up north of the border" to purchase fireworks and use them here.

The Government prohibits the importation of fireworks for sale to the public but legislation is less rigid in the North.

Retailers registered by the Northern Ireland Office can sell fireworks freely, although buyers are supposed to obtain a licence before using them.

The minister claimed in the Dáil yesterday: "People are queuing up north of the border with the intention of bringing them south.

"If a customs officer stops them, which I hope happens, there will be a criminal prosecution and their cars are liable to be confiscated.

"I warn people that the law is tougher than it was and the consequences of breaking it are serious."

Mr McDowell toughened the laws this year because of the "serious danger" illegal use of fireworks can pose.

It is an offence to possess fireworks without a licence, or to light unlicensed fireworks.

Under current policy, licences are issued only for organised events run by professional display operators, such as the Dublin Skyfest.

The legislation makes it an offence for any person to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply without a licence. It is also an offence to light unlicensed fireworks, or to throw an ignited firework at any person or property.

The penalty for these offences is a fine of up to €10,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years, or both.

The possession of fireworks without a licence is also an offence, for which a person may be fined up to €10,000.

A garda operation, entitled Tombola, has been launched to combat illegal importation of fireworks.