Unclear how 999 calls will be handled if Garda stike goes ahead

There was considerable uncertainty yesterday as to how 999 calls for Garda emergencies would be handled if the policing strike goes ahead.
Unclear how 999 calls will be handled if Garda stike goes ahead

An Garda Síochána currently operates 22 separate divisional control rooms, which, according to the last analysis by the Garda Inspectorate, receive a total of 1,500 calls, on average, a day.

This does not include calls made directly to local stations, which, in Dublin, exceeded the number of 999 calls by 40%.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday moved to reassure the public and said 999 calls would be answered under the contingency plans drawn up by the commissioner.

“Calls will be answered when calls come in as they do every day even with the full force on duty,” he told the Dáil.

However, Garda sources who spoke to the Irish Examiner said it was unclear how the control rooms were going to be staffed, and, more importantly, how the calls were going to be responded to given the uncertainty about what emergency cover will be available.

There were some reports yesterday that probationary gardaí — those recently graduated from college — are being trained to dispatch calls, but this could not be confirmed.

“How we are going to operate the 999 system is still unclear,” said one Garda source.

“But having a functioning 999 system, in terms of having people to take calls and dispatch cars and in terms of having enough gardaí to go to scenes, is probably our most important job.”

The staffing of control rooms and emergency cover to respond to the 999 calls will be dependent on the response of Garda members to the commissioner’s order, issued on Tuesday, directing them to turn up for work.

Local superintendents have been tasked with securing answers from gardaí regarding their compliance with the order. They were due to send their “return”, or estimates, to Garda HQ yesterday.

Sources indicated that it could be this morning before the contingency plan is finalised, detailing what kind of cover can be provided, how many stations are to be closed, and what emergency duties will be provided.

The Emergency Response Unit and the five Regional Support Units will be operational to respond to shootings, armed robberies, and firearms incidents.

The Command and Control Centre in Dublin combines civilian call takers and Garda dispatchers. Outside Dublin, gardaí perform both duties.

Justin Moran of Age Action yesterday said: “If people are living by themselves in a farm miles from the nearest village, if there’s an intruder in the yard, they pick up the phone and dial 999, who answers and who is going to be sent?”

Antoinette Cunningham, president of the Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors told Morning Ireland yesterday: “Questions about contingency planning, I can’t answer those. Who’ll answer the phone? Those are questions for Garda management and the Government.”

As it stands, all 999 calls go through to a telecoms company and each call is diverted based on where callers are located to 22 divisional control rooms.

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