A MASS exodus will see 400 fewer gardai on the streets by the end of the year.
New figures today lay bare the enormous challenges facing garda management as large numbers of officers retire.
The Herald can reveal that 401 personnel are scheduled to step down in 2012 -- more than half of whom are of 'garda' rank.
The figure is around double the average annual rate of retirements from An Garda Siochana.
Some 104 sergeants are also scheduled to leave the force, followed by 21 inspectors and 17 superintendents.
The figures show that 375 of the personnel are retiring from the force, while 21 are stepping down for other reasons.
Under the current EU/IMF deal, the Government is obliged to reduce the force from 14,500 to 13,000 by the end of 2013.
However, Fianna Fail justice spokesperson Niall Collins said they represented an "exodus" from the force.
"It's clear that 401 officers represents an exodus from the force. Stations just cannot cope with these low numbers and it will effectively mean communities are not adequately policed," he told the Herald.
"On top of this we have seen a raft of garda station closures. I'm very concerned about the safety of our streets when we are seeing such a large fall in garda numbers."
However Minister Shatter has again rejected claims that the force will be understaffed.
A department spokeswoman told the Herald: "An Garda Siochana is an extremely capable and talented force, and the Minister is confident of its ability to continue to combat crime effectively.
"The challenge for the force will be to put in place reform so that Garda deployment is as effective as possible."
She added: "As part of this reform, the Minister welcomes the new Garda roster which was introduced recently.
"This makes provision for the deployment of Garda members much more closely matched to correspond to the fluctuating demands on policing. Quite simply, there are more Gardai on duty at peak times."