A reduction in the number of gardai deployed in the national traffic corps has been recommended by the Department of Justice.
The shock move follows efforts by senior officers to build up the strength of the corps as a major drive was undertaken to reduce the level of fatalities on the nation's roads.
The goal was finally achieved as the overall strength soared above 14,000.
But now the department has proposed a U-turn on the traffic strategy, although it acknowledges the move was "likely to attract negative criticism from agencies with a vested interest in road safety".
But it added: "However, a measured reduction could be publicly justified with an appropriate communications strategy."
The department argued that efficiency savings could be generated from the redeployment of gardai attached to the traffic corps to other operational duties.
The recommendation is contained in a submission by Justice to the Comprehensive Review of Public Expenditure, which formed the background to Monday's announcements by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.
Meanwhile, money is being spent on repairing a garda station which is one of the 31 listed for closure as part of government cutbacks.
But the work is being carried out to remove asbestos for health and safety reasons.
Fianna Fail justice spokes-man Dara Calleary claimed yesterday that the station, at Loughglynn, Co Roscommon, was currently undergoing a complete refurbishment at considerable expense.
He said it beggared belief that Justice Minister Alan Shatter could sanction refurbish-ments of a garda station that he had no intention of keeping open.
The Department of Justice last night declined to comment.