Ireland facing EU fines for failing to introduce weapons controls

Government has missed deadline to pass restrictions on blank firing weapons

Ireland is facing the prospect of EU fines for failing to implement legislation to prevent blank firing weapons from being converted into lethal firearms.

Along with Bulgaria, Greece and Luxembourg, Ireland has missed the deadline to introduce legislation controlling such weapons by more than two years.

The EU Directive was introduced in 2019 amid growing concern about criminals converting blank firing weapons into live firearms for use in organised criminal activity.

Such weapons can be converted to fire live ammunition with relative ease and moderate technical knowledge.


Around the time the directive was introduced there were several high-profile cases of Irish criminals being caught smuggling converted blank firing weapons.

In 2019, Robert Keogh from Clonee was stopped by UK border officers as he tried to smuggle 60 converted handguns in the country. He was later jailed for nine years.

In 2017, Dublin socialite Lee Cullen was caught trying to import converted weapons and ammunition into the UK for onward sale to criminals. He was jailed for 21 years.

Last year UK police warned blank firing pistols were being purchased for as little as €120 before being converted into live weapons in workshops across the UK.

Subversive organisations in Northern Ireland have also been known to engage in the practice. In some cases the weapons are ordered through the post before being converted on arrival.

Blank firing weapons, known as “alarm and signal weapons” are strictly controlled in Ireland but the EU wants to see tighter controls aimed at making it more difficult to convert them into live weapons.

These include rules ensuring the weapons “cannot be modified through the use of ordinary tools either to expel or to become capable of being converted to expel a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of a combustible propellant,” the directive states.

The barrels of such weapons should be fitted with obstructions and should not be capable of being removed from the weapon, it states.

The directive covers all blank firing weapons including starter pistols, as well as flare guns and other devices designed to fire pyrotechnic rounds.

The directive also includes rules governing the inspection of such weapons and information sharing between states.

Last week the European Commission formally requested the Irish Government provide an update on its efforts to transpose the directive into law.

It said Ireland now has two months to notify the Commission that the directive has been implemented. If it fails to do so, the Commission can refer Ireland to the Court of Justice of the European Union which has the power to impose heavy fines.

In response to queries, the Department of Justice told The Irish Times that draft regulations to transpose the directive “are at an advanced stage” but declined to specify a date.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times