Two men who were caught supplying pupils with more than €4,000 of fireworks outside a school at Halloween have escaped going to jail.
The men appeared in court after a surveillance operation carried out by Gardai into the illegal sale of fireworks in Co Donegal last year.
Ciaran O’Neil and Paul McCaughey appeared at Letterkenny District Court where they pleaded guilty to the charges.
Sgt Jim Collins said that on November 27th last, Gardai came across a blue Audi car outside the gates of Deele College in Raphoe at 3.30pm.
It followed reports that fireworks were being sold illegally in a number of local towns including St Johnston and Raphoe in the run-up to Halloween.
Gardai activated their siren and blue light and the two men in the car fled but they were stopped quickly by officers after a short pursuit.
When Gardai searched the car they discovered €4,000 worth of fireworks in the boot of the car and the men were arrested.
Solicitor for the men, Mr Patsy Gallagher, said the men were very much at the bottom of the food chain when it came to the fireworks operation.
He pointed out that fireworks are legal in Northern Ireland from where they came but were illegal in the Republic.
He said both his clients had children and that their families knew about their arrests and that the families had assisted them in meeting their bail demands.
McCaughey, aged 40, had an address at Cabra, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, while O’Neil had an address at Aghnagar Road, Ballygawley, Co Tyrone.
Solicitor Gallagher said “I am asking the court that while this is serious given the nature of the items, they are very small players in this and they got the items on tick,” he said.
Judge Paul Kelly asked what was the current penalties for the sale of fireworks and specifically asked if there was a custodial sentence.
He was told that the penalty is a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison.
He added “They were taking advantage of young people, they were selling these items to school children. They are popular but they are still illegal.”
Neither men had any previous convictions for any offences.
The court was also told that cash of both fifty-five euro and sixty-five-pound sterling was found on the men which Gardai believed were from the proceeds of the illegal sale of fireworks.
Judge Kelly fined both men €500 from their bail money previously paid and also gave an order for the destruction of the €4,000 worth of fireworks.
The cash recovered was donated to a local charity in the Raphoe area.