A record number of gardai retired in 2009 as the brain drain in the force reached critical levels.
The final tally of the number of officers who retired last year stands as 723, the largest number of departing officers in a single year since the force's foundation.
It compared with 243 in 2008 and just 177 in 2007. The three-old spike in numbers retiring last year was caused by senior officers' fears that a gratuity payment tax was set to be brought in in last December's Budget, following the public service pension levy. The gratuity tax was not introduced.
Due to the age and experience of the retiring officers, a 'brain drain' is feared as a number of key positions have been vacated.
Twelve chief superintendents departed in 2009, while none left in 2008. The 28 superintendents who retired in 2009 compared with just two in 2008.
There is currently no detective superintendent in the busy Crumlin Garda district, nor is there one in Dun Laoghaire. A large number of uniformed station sergeants also left the force, raising fears about the adequate supervision of young gardai.
A source said: "There has been a great loss of expertise as a result of last year's retirements. There's an impression within the force that some Government mandarins are happy to see the old guard of the force go, because they see them as an anachronism.
"The problem is that the old guard were the ones on the streets bringing in suspects, unlike some of the mid-ranking new crew who reckon the best way to catch a criminal is to use your laptop and do a degree on policing strategies."
Revealing the figures, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern added: "During 2009 over 900 students were attested as sworn members of An Garda Siochana and as of the 31st December 2009 the total strength of the force was 14,547 with an additional 232 students in training".
"The deputy will also be aware that I recently concluded negotiations with the Minister for Finance for the filling of some 170 positions at management and supervisory levels in An Garda Siochana."