JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter admitted yesterday that recruitment to An Garda Siochana will not begin again for more than a year.
And he blamed the previous government, the EU and the IMF for tying his hands on the cutbacks.
His announcement that new applicants will have to wait for a possible 18 months came as he attended the final graduation ceremony at the garda training college in Templemore until at least the latter half of 2014.
The last batch of 126 graduates were told by Mr Shatter that he believed the force would rise to the task of reform and respond to the fresh challenges with strength and flexibility.
Mr Shatter noted that the gardai had 14,300 members at the moment, "a great deal more than we had at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland", although he did not mention that the crime rate has risen dramatically since then.
He said he wanted to see reform of prosecution and judicial case-management systems so that gardai did not waste time waiting in court for longer than was necessary. He also wanted administrative duties carried out by civilians to allow trained gardai to be freed up to tackle crime.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan reassured the public that gardai would continue to provide a quality service and would focus on tackling serious crime through intelligence-led operations.