July 27th, 2018
Mondello Park has pulled out as the host venue for a controversial sky lantern event that was set to take place next month despite fire concerns amid ongoing drought conditions in Co Kildare.
The Lights Fest was set to take place on 11 August at Mondello Park in the heart of the countryside and involve live music and dancing as well as the release of sky lanterns – small hot air balloons made of paper.
According to the festival’s website, attendees would ignite their sky lanterns with Tiki torches in the evening and let “them take flight”.
Concerns have been raised, however, about the safety of the event by environmentalists, the general public, the Irish Aviation Authority, Kildare County Council and Kildare Fire Services.
This afternoon, Mondello Park issued a statement on its Twitter account in response to a question from 2FM’s Keith Walsh that the event will no longer take place at Mondello.
“Following communication with the event organiser Mondello Park can confirm that the planned Lights Fest event on August 11th will not take place at the venue,” the statement reads.
Kildare resident and environmental campaigner, Deirdre Lane, welcomed the decision, after raising her concerns with authorities in Kildare on numerous occasions in recent months.
“Fire hazard aside, these lanterns are a huge threat to the environment, with birds getting entangled in wires stuck in trees, or wildlife, cattle or pets getting injured when they step into the sharp frames or accidentally ingesting parts of them,” she added.
The event organisers failed to reply to several requests from The Green News for comment about the planned event.
Fire safety issues
The festival’s website states that it has been held in several countries with a “perfect safety record” to date. They state that the lanterns are modified to land within the event property for easy retrieval.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), however, said that the festival organisers have not applied to the IAA for such a release that would be “illegal unless appropriate permission were granted”.
“We are aware of the advertising and promotional material surrounding this proposed event currently circulating online,” an IAA spokesperson told The Green News.
The IAA does “not endorse or encourage” the use of sky lanterns, the spokesperson said, with safety guideline indicating that no individual or group may release more than 20 sky lanterns in a single launch.
“For the purposes of these Guidelines ‘simultaneously released at a single site’ shall mean the release of not more than 20 Sky Lanterns during a period not exceeding 15 minutes from within an area not exceeding one-kilometre square,” the Authority’s safety guide states.
Kildare authorities concerned
Celina Barrett, Chief Fire Officer for the Kildare Fire Service, said that they had tried to “use our influence to stop it going ahead”. She added, however, that, as the number of attendees would be fewer than 5,000, the organisers do not require an event license.
“Neither the Fire Service nor Kildare County Council has any powers to prevent or cancel the event as it does not require a licence under our current legislation,” she said, with Kildare County Council confirming this in a statement.
Sky Lanterns are banned in several countries including Colombia, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, parts of Canada and number of states in the US.
A sky lantern also caused a fire at a plastic recycling plant in Birmingham in 2013 that involved more than 200 firefighters and cost £6 million in damages. Eleven firefighters were injured. In 2010, a boy’s face was badly burned in Wrexham as hot wax from a lantern landed on his face.
Lights Fest’s website says their lanterns are 100 per cent biodegradable, contain no metal wiring and are made from rice paper, string and bamboo. They also state that they treat the rice paper to ensure it is fire resistant.