Justice Minister Helen McEntee blames ‘overhang from Covid-19’ for poor recruitment numbers
The Government will fall significantly short of its Garda recruitment targets for 2022.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee has admitted just 460 recruits will have completed or be in the middle of training by the end of the year – little over half of the 800 promised in last year's budget.
However, the minister said she was confident an even more ambitious target set out in this year’s Budget, to have 1,000 new recruits during 2023, can be met.
Ms McEntee blamed “an overhang from Covid-19” for the poor recruitment numbers which come despite the fact 11,000 people applied to join the force following a recruitment campaign earlier this year.
“We have had challenges in the last two years in that we haven’t been able to put the numbers through Templemore that we would like, which has affected overall recruitment,” said Ms McEntee.
It is the second year in a row that Garda recruitment numbers announced in a budget have failed to materialise.
In October 2020, up to 620 new Garda recruits were promised for 2021. However, just 386 had started training that year and 146 were attested.
The shortfalls mean the Government’s target of reaching 15,000 gardaí will not be met during 2023.
There were 14,300 in the force as of the end of July. Upwards of 300 gardaí usually retire each year.
The Justice Minister said she was hopeful the strength of the force would be close to 15,000 by the end of next year but would not predict when that number would be eventually be hit.
Last August, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the force needed more than 15,000 sworn members and more than 4,000 civilian support staff to meet growing demands.
The setbacks come amid ongoing concerns that the force is not visible enough both in urban and rural communities.
“The reason I am confident we will get the 1,000 [in 2023] is we have gotten to the stage, through the Public Appointments Service, where we will have 200 [recruits] every three months,” Ms McEntee said.
Her comments came after the interim general secretary of the Garda Representative Association, Philip McAnenly, pointed out that far fewer than the promised 800 recruits for 2022 had actually materialised.
“We expect that garda management will make these new 1,000 positions a priority for the safety and wellbeing of our members and the public, but also that they continue to address issues within the force to make a career in An Garda Síochána a safer and more attractive one to potential recruits,” said Mr McAnenly.
Ms McEntee said innovations in technology and body-worn cameras were being introduced to make the job safer and more attractive.
The setbacks come amid ongoing concerns that the force is not visible enough both in urban and rural communities
“The fact 11,000 people applied shows how An Garda Síochána is held. People see it as a very positive and very good career and something people want to be part of,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ms McEntee ruled out any large-scale acceptance of Russian refugees in Ireland unless a decision is taken on the issue at EU level.
Thousands have been fleeing the country to avoid being drafted to fight in Ukraine following Vladimir Putin’s “partial” mobilisation.
Ms McEntee said Ireland had “not closed its doors” to people coming from Russia, with visas generally being issued for family reunifications or where an Irish citizen is married to a Russian national.
However, she said any decision to support Russian citizens who are seeking asylum would have to flow from a decision taken at EU level.
Since the Russian invasion in February, 50,000 Ukrainians have been accepted in Ireland.