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Sunday 19 January 2020

Gardaí to come out during strike 'only if victim is in danger'

Gardaí to triage crime reports and prioritise incidents

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Shane Phelan, Anne-Marie Walsh and Tom Brady

Gardaí will work off a priority list during the forthcoming strike actions, with life-threatening and violent crimes tackled first - while others may not be investigated at all on the day.

Burglaries and road traffic accidents where there is no serious injury or threat to life may not be immediately responded to during the strike by rank-and-file members, sergeants and inspectors next week.

The Irish Independent has learned details of the likely contingency plan which means murders, serious assaults and aggravated burglaries would be responded to.

But senior garda sources said non-fatal road traffic accidents and burglaries where there was no violence and the intruder has already left would be much less likely to get an immediate response.

Read more: Gardai set for talks over threatened strike action

"The first thing that will be considered when a report is made is whether there is an immediate risk to someone's life. Is the person in danger right now and do we need to intervene?" said a senior Garda source.

"To be blunt about things, if someone is not in immediate risk, then there may be a decision that an urgent Garda response is not required."

The 'triaging' of crime in this way will mean many less serious crimes will only be followed up in the days after the strike action.

But Garda management is hopeful four mass strikes, the first of which is due to take place next Friday, can be averted. Hopes of a resolution were raised last night after talks between the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Department of Justice were referred to the State's chief mediation body.

A few hours later a further statement was released confirming the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) would also engage in talks at the commission.

Read more: It's the second day of Garda industrial action today: Here are eight things you need to know

All sides have agreed to the intervention of the Workplace Relations Commission.

It is understood discussions with the GRA are centring on some form of compensation for gardaí for extra productivity.

This would involve measures that would not be seen to breach the Lansdowne Road Agreement. They include mentoring of Garda reservists, roster changes and a modernisation plan for the force.

The Government hopes such a deal could be negotiated without triggering calls from other public servants for pay rises. Talks are expected to continue over the weekend.

Sources revealed the 10,500 members of the GRA will be balloted if a pay deal is brokered in the coming days.

But there is still time to halt their strike next Friday as the commission is likely to ask the garda associations to suspend industrial action until a result.

Read more: Government will not let admiration for gardaí blind it during pay talks - Tánaiste

In statements last night, the Department of Justice said it had agreed, along with the GRA and AGSI, to use the services of the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court "on an ad hoc basis". It said this was to "augment" the current negotiations "in an attempt to avert the planned industrial action".

Ironically, gaining access to the commission is one of the garda associations' key demands to improve their industrial relations rights.

Recent discussions have focussed on draft proposals rejected last month by rank and file gardaí with a view to finding a compromise by "tweaking" some of the terms.

If the Lansdowne Road deal is seen to be breached, it will result in industrial chaos as other public sector unions signed up to the agreement will seek concessions. Among its demands, the GRA wants the Government to set out a clear "road map" for the restoration of pay cuts.

Irish Independent

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