First batch of new gardai in five years to be put on hold
Plans to bring in the first batch of garda recruits since 2009 have been put on hold until September.
The setback means that garda strength will continue to fall until next summer.
The Government had promised the initial intake would march through the gates of the Garda College in Templemore by the end of this month.
Security officials told the Irish Independent last night that this deadline would not now be met as the resumption of recruitment had not been financially approved.
However, it is expected that sanction for the initial intake of 100 personnel will be given by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the next few days.
It was intended that two more similar batches would be introduced at three-monthly intervals between now and early in the new year.
But the timeframe for those intakes remains unclear at the moment as approval has not been signalled for additional recruitment.
After official sanction has been given to the Department of Justice for the 100 successful candidates – out of an overall 25,000 applications when the posts were first advertised – the garda authorities will notify the recruits of the arrangements to take them into the Garda College.
The recruits will be given time to deliver a month's notice to their current employers, if they are in jobs, and it is now likely they will start in Templemore either at the end of August or more probably in September.
The aim of the Government had been to maintain the force's strength at 13,000, which had been described as a "bottom line" figure by former garda commissioner Martin Callinan.
However, the strength has already shrunk to around 12,930 and will fall significantly further before the recruits are on the streets for the first time as part of their two-year training programme in the middle of 2015.
This compares with a peak of 14,500 personnel before a moratorium on recruitment was introduced by the Government five years ago.
The Department of Justice said last night: "Arrangements are currently being finalised, in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and the Garda Commissioner, for the first intake of garda recruits to the training college from the current competition. "It is expected that details will be announced shortly," it added.
Seven thousand of those who applied to join had fallen by the wayside by the time the first task was set online for applicants.
The two-year training course has been overhauled and will now consist of an initial 32-week training programme at the college, followed by a two-week break and then 68 weeks based at selected garda stations to gain on-the-job experience.
While at the stations they will gradually be granted policing powers and become attested members of the force.
At the end of the two years, they will graduate as fully fledged gardai.