On Friday 1st May 1998, and again on Saturday 13th June 1998, the gardai - the Irish police force - went on strike for 24 hours.

Let me just say that again: the police went on strike. For 24 hours. Twice.

By law, the gardai are not allowed to strike, understandably enough, but they wanted a 15% pay increase instead of the 5.5% they were offered. And so the "blue flu" hit - officers were encouraged to call in sick for 24 hours, on these two separate occasions (so as to avoid the legal implications of an actual strike, but still staying away from work while getting paid). It was estimated that between 25% and 28% of officers were on duty for those 24 hours.

Can you imagine it? The cops, on strike - there must have been a crime spree, surely, the criminals must have gone on a rampage, right? Nope. What about in Dublin, that's the capital city, wasn't there any looting or violence? Zip. No serious incidents, no noticeable increase in crime during the 24 hours. There are two theories to explain this:

1. The bad weather that kept people inside, combined with the legendarily capable private security (read: mindless thugs) in clubs and pubs meant that likely trouble spots (clubs and pubs) weren't too busy, and were well looked after.

2. The criminals just didn't think the cops were really serious.

Of course, Dublin, while still having its problems, is a lot less violent than many cities. Imagine if the cops in London had gone on strike for 24 hours - or New York, or Los Angeles, or Paris, or Berlin - there'd have been absolute fucking anarchy. Shaky helicopter footage showing streets on fire, bodies in the street, civilisation would collapse overnight. Just think about for a minute - wouldn't you be tempted, even you, you law abiding, decent citizen you, to go and heave a brick through a window, and bundle a widescreen TV into your car? Pick up a nice DVD player, maybe a PlayStation 2, some games... who's gonna stop you? The cops?

Of course, I'm not advocating anarchy, riots, or looting - but would you? If you couldn't possibly get caught? Is that all that stops you from being a criminal? They say we are all only three meals away from murder - of course, some of us don't even need that much encouragement...