NEW gardai are to be recruited on a rolling basis in a bid to maintain the force's overall strength at 13,000.
Around a hundred recruits are expected to be admitted to the Garda training college in Templemore, Co Tipperary, at intervals of three to four months.
The first batch of one hundred will be sent to Templemore in the summer and graduate as fully fledged gardai two years later.
An announcement on the restart of the recruitment campaign, which has been dormant since 2009 because of a moratorium on public service numbers, will be made officially tomorrow.
More than 32,000 potential applicants have already expressed an interest in joining the force and they will form the bulk of those competing for the initial one hundred places.
Their applications are currently being examined and the Public Appointments Commission will set an initial online test for them in early January.
They will be informed of the first test in email responses to their applications in the coming days. Further assessments will then be carried out as the numbers are whittled down and a group is chosen for a full interviewing process.
The resumption of recruitment has been underlined by Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who said it was important for an organisation like the Garda, given the demanding nature of policing, to receive a reasonably regular intake of new recruits.
However, it will be difficult, at least initially, to ensure that the numbers do not fall below 13,000. The strength of the force stands at around 13,100 and that includes those on secondments, overseas service, sick leave and maternity leave.
It is anticipated that a total of around 335 members will have left the force in 2013 by the end of this month.
This compares with an exodus of around 460 last year; 480 in 2011; 400 in 2010; 776 in 2009; and 340 in 2008.
The figures mean that, unless there is a huge fall-off in the numbers leaving through mainly natural wastage in the coming year, the overall strength will drop below the 13,000 figure before the impact of the recruitment is felt on the ground.
As a result of the initial difficulties in keeping the force at a strength of 13,000, it is anticipated the minister, senior Justice officials and garda officers, in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure, will examine the possibility of increasing the rolling intakes to more than four in a year.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said that 13,000 should be regarded as a bottom-line figure.