Concerns over the strength of An Garda Síochána have deepened after it emerged there are 1,450 members eligible to retire — 250 more than previously stated.
With the force currently at around 13,400 members, it is thought to be only a matter of time before it falls through the 13,000 minim-um floor set by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
But there was some good news for rural communities after Justice Minister Alan Shatter gave his first indication that there would be no more Garda station closures — for several years, at least.
Mr Shatter said that following discussions with Mr Callinan, it was “unlikely” there would be any more closures until 2016. It will be good news for rural communities served by the remaining 148 one-person stations across the country.
Separately, Mr Shatter said there are 1,450 gardaí who could retire in 2013 on full pension. Gardaí can do so if they have served 30 years and are over the age of 50.
“However, there is no basis for expecting that all those who could retire will actually do so,” he said.
This is 250 more than previously stated by the minister. Last month, he put the figure at 1,200.
Mr Shatter said that, based on experience, it was reasonable to expect that somewhere between 300 and 400 gardaí would retire.
He previously stated he expected Garda strength to be “closer to 13,000” by year end and dismissed statements from staff associations that the force would fall to 12,000.
Separately, Mr Shatter gave his first indication that there would be no more station closures — for a number of years, at least.
In reply to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins, Mr Shatter said “it seems unlikely at this point in time that there will be any further station closures in 2014 and 2015”.
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