Fireworks: the law
Fireworks include items which burn and explode to produce noise or a visual effect for entertainment. Sparklers, bangers, fountains and rockets are all fireworks.
Most fireworks can only be bought and used by professional, licenced operators. Only the least dangerous fireworks can be sold to the general public.
Fireworks are dangerous. You need a licence to import them to Ireland and the way they are stored and sold is regulated by laws on explosives.
Categories of fireworks
Fireworks are divided into 4 categories. The least dangerous is Category F1 and the most dangerous is Category F4.
Category F1 fireworks
Category F1 fireworks can be bought and used by the general public. These are called low hazard fireworks. F1 fireworks:
- Pose the least danger
- Make very little noise
- Are for use in a limited space (including indoors)
Examples include party poppers, ground spinners, Christmas crackers and some sparklers. Importers of these fireworks must have a licence (except for Christmas crackers).
Category F1 fireworks can be dangerous and their use should be supervised. F1 fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 12.
Bangers are not in Category F1 and it is illegal for the general public to import, possess or use them.
More dangerous fireworks
Fireworks in other categories are more dangerous and can only be used by professional operators in organised displays, not by the general public.
These fireworks include rockets, roman candles and aerial wheels. If you want to organise a display of these types of firework, you must use a professional fireworks operator.
What are the penalties for having a firework?
Category F1 fireworks can be bought and used by the general public. Apart from Christmas crackers, a licence is needed to import F1 fireworks.
It is illegal to import, hold, sell or use any other fireworks without a licence.
It is an offence to:
- Light an unlicensed firework
- Throw a lit firework at a person or property, except for low-hazard (F1) fireworks
- Have an unlicensed firework
- Have an unlicensed firework with the intention of selling it or giving it to someone else
These offences are specified in Section 80 of the Explosives Act 1875, as amended by the Section 68 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006. These are arrestable offences. The Gardaí can arrest you without a warrant if they suspect you of having committed an offence under this Act.
If you are found guilty of any of the above offences:
- On summary conviction (in the District Court), you are liable to a class C fine or to imprisonment for up to 6 months, or to both.
- On conviction on indictment (in the Circuit Court), you are liable to a maximum fine of €10,000 or to imprisonment for up to 5 years, or to both.
Fireworks and Garda powers
The Gardaí have wide powers to investigate these offences. If the Gardaí reasonably suspect that you have fireworks for sale or supply without a licence they may:
- Request your name and address
- Request you to go to the Garda station to verify your name and address (if they are not satisfied your details are correct)
- Search you without a warrant and detain you for the time required to carry out the search
- Enter and search any vehicle, vessel or aircraft without a warrant, if they suspect that a firework may be found there
- Seize and detain anything connected with fireworks found in the course of the search
If the Gardaí suspect that you have committed an offence of sale or supply of fireworks without a licence, they may arrest you without a warrant.
The warrant allows the Gardaí to enter a premises, by force if necessary, and it also allows them to seize any evidence that a fireworks offence has been committed. The Gardaí can demand the name and address of anyone present at the premises when they are searching it.
Anybody who obstructs the Gardaí during the search under the warrant may be arrested. If found guilty in court, you may be liable on summary conviction to a class C fine or to imprisonment for up to 6 months, or to both.
What can I do if fireworks are being set off in my area?
If you are concerned about fireworks being set off where you live, you can report it to the Gardaí. You should phone your local Garda station, or you can call the Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.
Labelling of fireworks
All F1 fireworks sold must include the following on the firework or packaging:
- Instructions for use
- Minimum safety distance (if appropriate)
- “For outdoor use only” (if appropriate)
- Minimum age of person it can be sold to
- Name, type of item and category of firework
- Name of the manufacturer or importer
- The CE mark
- Explosive content
Where to apply