Force's strength to plunge below 13,000 'baseline' before next intake of recruits
THE strength of the Garda force will plunge below its baseline figure of 13,000 before new recruits are taken into the training college in Templemore, the Irish Independent has learned.
The Government has not yet determined how many recruits will be taken in next year – after a four-year moratorium – or when the campaign will begin.
But a large intake is not expected and it is unlikely to offset the numbers lost in 2014 through natural wastage.
The current strength of the force is 13,120, and this is predicted to fall by between 300 and 350 next year as a result of retirements and resignations.
If career breaks, job sharing and secondments are taken into account, the number available for policing duties has already dipped below 13,000, which was set by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan as his bottom line.
He warned earlier this year that if the strength fell below that number, the force would not be able to provide the policing service it wanted to give to the community.
A row over garda numbers, as well as the need for a supplementary justice budget of almost €51m, is expected to erupt at a meeting of the Oireachtas justice, defence and equality committee tomorrow afternoon.
Last night Fianna Fail justice spokesman, Niall Collins said that the first batch of new recruits would be less than two hundred candidates.
Around 30,000 potential applicants have already expressed an interest in joining the force.
Although gardai of all ranks can now serve until they are 60, the average age of those leaving over the past three years has been 54 years and there are currently around 1,500 members who are eligible to leave because they have completed their required 30 years service.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the first batch of new recruits will enter the Garda college in mid-2014, and he said a number of procedural issues had to be sorted out before the competition formally began.
Last night, Mr Collins called on the minister to give a commitment that the 2014 budget would be sufficient to ensure that gardai were paid, and to take steps to increase the garda strength would stand at over 13,000 again.
Commenting on the disclosure by the Irish Independent yesterday of a supplementary budget, Mr Collins said the last- minute scramble for garda funding was totally unnecessary and it had not been difficult to predict from the original figures that there was a shortfall of cash to pay their wages for the entire year.