Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has called on the community to help stamp out the any threat to livestock from “young, irresponsible thugs throwing fireworks at farm animals during the Halloween period”.
Mr Swann, the UUP Chief Whip, Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and Past Chairman of the influential Rural Youth Europe organization, added: “The entire community, both urban and rural, needs to remain on alert because of the threat from fireworks in the countryside.
“With Hallowe’en approaching, there still unfortunately remains the threat from large volumes of often illegal fireworks in the countryside.
“These illegal fireworks, and especially the loud banger types, still pose a considerable threat to farm livestock.
“In my capacity as Constituency MLA and UUP Association Chairman, I have welcomed a past seizure by the police in Ballymena of an amount of illegal fireworks which could have caused injury not just to others but also to the users.
“I appeal to the community that if they have any knowledge of these types of attacks to give the information as soon as possible to the police so that these people can be brought before the courts and face the due process of the law.
“I also appeal to parents to ensure they know that their children are doing. Attacks on live stock are an open attack on the farmer’s livelihood and assets.
“For example, we recall the past destruction of farm buildings and death of live stock in the Coleraine area when farm buildings were razed by fire.
“That should leave us as a community in no doubt about the damage which fire can cause.
“Although this specific incident was not attributed to misuse of fireworks, we could see repeats of these harrowing scenes again if the dangerous practices of hurling fireworks at animals are not stopped.
“And it’s not just farm animals which have suffered under the threat of the so-called Banger Menace.
“In past times, too, human life was put at considerable risk when young hoods threw fireworks into a church hall where a youth group was meeting in my own home village of Kells and Connor in North Antrim.
“As a community, we have a moral duty to assist the police and the courts in eradicating the threats to life and physical attacks from these Hallowe’en Hoods.
“These socially sick individuals often get their kicks by intimidating the more vulnerable in our society. As a community, we cannot afford to wait until a flock or herd is burned alive before taking action to help the forces of law and order stamp out the Banger Menace.
“As a community, we must not be flippant about the threat of fire dangers to barns and bales, especially with the high costs of replacement fodder for the upcoming winter,” said Assemblyman Swann.