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Everything You Need to Know About Ireland's Real-Life 'Purge Night'

Ireland's police have said they're going to strike this Friday, so we walked around Dublin asking people what they'd do on a night with no laws.
Irish police in 2006. Photo: Wikicommons user StripeyCat

It's been a busy year in terms of Irish civil protest. The nurses were the first to strike, early in January, followed by Dublin bus strikes in September, and then secondary school teachers went on strike earlier this month. This week sees potentially the most disruptive action of all, with the Irish police force (known as the Gardai Síochána, or "Guardians of the Peace") threatening to strike this coming Friday, and for all the Fridays in November, unless they receive a significant pay increase.


A Dublin bus driver earns, on average, €35,463 per year. Post-strike, new teachers begin with a salary of €37,721. Gardai, after 32 weeks of training, can hope to start on a wage of €23,000 per year.

For a job that asks for so much in return, it's an unequivocally bad deal. Add to this the frosty relations between the wider force and Garda HQ (known affectionately as "The Kremlin"), the denial of a proper trade union for Gardai (they currently have only a "representative organisation") and the strike seems wholly reasonable.

But what might result from even one day without police on the streets? Could Ireland really descend into chaos and stage its own "purge night"? Let's consider the options:

(Photo: Wikicommons user EI321, via)

Scenario 1: A strike like any other

Could Ireland get through a day – or even four days, all of them Fridays – without law enforcement? We've survived weird legal anomalies before (remember that time we accidentally legalised all the drugs?). With swathes of the public sympathetic to their cause, the Garda strikes might come and go peacefully.

But this isn't quite the average strike. The rest of Europe appears to have not had any police strikes since the 1970s. Already we're seeing threats of ATMs running out of money and airports closing for the day, and a statement from Taoiseach Enda Kenny that under no circumstances will the Irish army stand in for the police. Even when the Gardai are working they struggle to keep up with heavily armed criminal gangs (Glocks and AKs versus the Gardai's pepper spray and batons) and are alarmingly under-resourced for fighting cyber threats.


So perhaps the country will descend into chaos, and we'll be completely and utterly fucked. Unless you're part of a criminal gang, that is – then you've hit the jackpot.

Scenario 2: False Alarm

It's worth considering that the strikes will not go ahead at all – chances still stand at around 50-50. The Garda Representative Association has issued a statement confirming their intention to strike, but they also pledge to continue the negotiation process.

Meanwhile, the Assistant Commissioner insists there will still be a number of police on the streets on Friday, and Commissioner O'Sullivan has issued an order for all Gardai to report to work on Friday, including even those on leave or rest days. Whether potential strikers will heed the directive, however, remains uncertain, and so far Gardai have rejected proposals outlining a slight increase in their pay staggered over the next two years.

Scenario 3: A Rising after all

This year saw Ireland commemorate the 1916 Rising, our bloody yet fondly remembered rebellion, which ultimately ushered in the Civil War. Many of the 1916 public events, TV shows, parades and exhibitions were oddly twee, failing to convey the carnage of modern Ireland's violent birth.

But 2016 isn't over yet. With the police at home for the night (or off partying at Coppers, a bar popular with Gardai), it's not too late for Ireland to stage a rebellion inspired as much by a schlocky US horror franchise as by our fallen historical patriots. Perhaps we'll stage mass viewing parties of films banned by blasphemy laws. Perhaps Twitter communists will seize the means of production (I'm thinking the tech multinationals down by the docklands). Perhaps feminists will rally together and finally repeal the Eighth Amendment by force. It's a little bit fire and brimstone, perhaps, but isn't revolution part of our heritage?


The future is uncertain, and none of these options might come to pass. But in case the strike does go ahead, we took to the streets of Dublin after dark to find out what the public is planning for Ireland's Purge Night:

Luke and Tadhg

Luke: We'll probably stay in. We're just not the looting kind of guys…
Tadhg: We probably won't go out on the Purge, but we'll be worried that everyone else will.

Oisin, Jack and friends

Oisin: We're gonna have a good time on Friday. I'm not here for a long time; I'm here for a good time. We're not going to get arrested, though. But the guards do deserve a raise – it's a terrible starting wage.
Jack (in convincing imitation of Mrs Brown): The guards in Ireland simply do not get enough money, and sure they're great lads. In this big powerful Europe that we're part of, how come there's no European defence force to come over and help us out? We have nothing. NATO's not even ours. We don't have NATO, we have potato!

*Group starts sings in the style of the "on your own" chant as they disappear into the night*

For the Purge! For the Purge! For the Purge! For the Purge! For the Purge! For the Purge!

Jeremy and John

Jeremy: I have GAA practice. I really don't think anything big is going to happen. There'll still be Gardai on the streets. Nothing will happen. If anything happens they'll bring in special forces.
John: Sure, the gangland crowd are all dead already.

Thomas and Pierce

Thomas: I'm a background actor on The Vikings; I'll be in a battle on Friday, so if anyone wants to come and fight me, I'll be ready in historically-accurate armour. I think six or 700 warriors could do a lot for the city.
Pierce: I'm just taking a handy, just going with the flow. I'm totally chilled, letting things come at me and taking stock of the situation. I'm good. I'm not worried.


Maria and Aoife (who didn't want to be photographed)

Maria: I wouldn't want to live life as a guard.
Aoife: It's not OK. Our guards, our teachers, our doctors and nurses all deserve some more respect. Ireland has its priorities mixed up – we're not even taking taxes from the big IT companies because we're scared if we do they'll leave. People who put their lives on the line as part of their job deserve respect, and deserve a respectable wage, and €21,000 per year is not enough.

Lena: I think it's going to be just another strike. Being in the police force is probably the worst job in Ireland – they deserve to go on strike and ask for more money.

Joshua and Cian (not pictured)

Joshua: Well, I've always wanted this pair of jeans, and River Island have them. Mary's Bar has these really nice kegs outside, as decoration, and River Island is just right around the corner on Grafton Street. So I think I could probably just put one of the kegs through River Island's window. I'll only take the jeans, though. I do respect authority and boundaries. But you know when you just want that one thing? It's going to be like that scene in Do the Right Thing where they throw the bin through the window.
Cian: I just want a kebab.


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