Sparks fly as firework ban is lifted

1st November 1996 at 00:00
A teachers' union leader in Northern Ireland has given a reprimand to the Department of Education over advice to schools on the safe use of fireworks, writes Paul McGill.

Fireworks - banned for the past 25 years in Northern Ireland except under licence - are now available for use in gardens and indoors.

Hospitals and fire services were braced last night as children marked Hallowe'en, which is celebrated in Ireland just as Guy Fawkes Night is in England.

As a result of the 25-year ban children and many adults do not know how to handle them safely. The Department of Education decided therefore to send a circular to schools drawing attention to "the need to ensure that pupils are made fully aware of the care required when using fireworks, including sparklers".

The move angered Tom McKee, regional official of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, who claimed it was another example of the Government passing on social problems to schools.

He said: "Schools are becoming an Aunt Sally for all kinds of problems - drug abuse, sex education and poor national performance in sport. This latest initiative is crazy. If schools start issuing advice on fireworks, then they will be held responsible for any tragedies when fireworks are used.

"This is not a task which should be dumped on overworked, under-staffed schools."

A spokesman for the department said the circular does not impose a legal requirement on schools and added that it was "intended to be helpful".

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