THE Government plans to reduce the amount of training new garda recruits receive before being allowed out on the beat.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that gardai will be allowed begin policing after just 12 months training in Templemore, compared with 15 months at present.
And he said the issue of recruitment would have to be looked at late this year or early in 2014 to keep garda numbers up.
He was speaking after the Irish Independent today revealed that senior management have warned him they will not be able to provide a full policing service if he presses ahead with plans to slash the strength of the force by the end of the year.
Garda authorities will have to reduce their numbers to 12,000 by the end of December because of a shortfall of more than €35m in their 2013 budget.
This is because the government has only provided wages for only 12,000 gardai rather than the 13,000 in the force, and management only became aware of the fresh cuts when the budgetary figures were studied by their financial section at Phoenix Park headquarters.
The cuts come after Commissioner Martin Callinan earlier warned he did not want to see the strength of the force drop below 13,000. If numbers continued to fall, it would take two years to build up the organisation again.
But the justice minister today insisted there was no “ambush” in relation to the extent of the cuts. All gardai would be paid, and there was “no possibility” of 1,500 gardai being lost.
He said the previous government had agreed with the troika that numbers should fall to 13,150, but they stood at 13,430. They would fall to 13,000 by year end because of retirements.
“Like every other minister I must work to reduce costs,” he told Today with Pat Kenny on RTE. “The financial allocation reflects this. There’s no question of anyone being ambushed. “The Garda Commissioner is aware of the figures. There’s no possibility of gardai not being properly paid. There’s no possibility of us losing 1,000 or 1,500 guards.”
He said that crime numbers had fallen, and that he had “every confidence” in the force.
“There are people who are upset, victims of crime who have had appalling experiences,” he said.
“Despite the awful experiences of some, in 12 out of the 14 categories crime is down and prosecutions are up.”
The Garda training college in Templemore had not been “mothballed”, he added, but used for continuous training. New members could be recruited from next year, with a fast-tracked training programme.
“If we weren’t financially constrained I would like to start a recruitment campaign. The last contingent were commissioned in March 2011. I do have a concern that we do recruit when we need to.
“The new training programme will facilitate members who have been trained being out on the beat after 12 months of training.
“This (recruitment) will have to be addressed at the end of 2013 or early in 2014. In the intervening period, I have an obligation to live within my financial envelope. In a minister in a government that’s committed to getting us out of the programme, I have to ensure that public expenditure isn’t excessive.”