Almost a third of all Garda stations are staffed by just one garda, raising the likelihood of widespread closures of stations in 2013.
Figures released by the Department of Justice show 205 stations out of almost 660 are staffed by just one garda, predominantly in small rural villages.
Another 40 stations are without any permanent garda assigned to duty, while a further 88 stations have just two serving gardaí.
With a ban on new recruits, the Government has already signalled there is likely to be a major rationalisation of existing stations early next year due to the need for cost-cutting in the annual Garda budget.
Since 2008, a total of 34 Garda stations have closed — the majority of them over the past year.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, who is due shortly to submit the Garda annual policing plan which will recommend stations for closure to the Government, will appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee this Wednesday for discussions on the issue.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said that he expects the 2013 policing plan to recommend further rationalisation of the Garda station network.
In a Dáil reply last week, Mr Shatter said he believed most people would accept that “it would not be sensible to keep open every single Garda station we inherited on the foundation of the State”.
“What matters is not simply a bricks-and-mortar presence in every locality, but rather the delivery of the most effective policing service possible to the public in that area,” he said.
There were 11,626 gardaí attached to stations around the county at the end of September, the figures show. This excludes members attached to various national units. It represents a 3.4% reduction on the number of gardaí at the end of 2008.
However, the current overall strength of the force is 13,463 — down 6.6%, or 949 personnel, since 2008.
Staffing levels in a quarter of all 108 Garda districts have fallen by 10% or more over the past four years, with a noticeable reduction in the number of officers stationed in border areas.
However, there was an increase of 10% or more in gardaí deployed in 14 districts over the same period.
The figures also reveal wide disparities in the number of gardaí assigned to cover similar populations.
Limerick has the highest Garda presence of all 26 counties, with 31.8 gardaí for every 10,000 population, twice as many as the lowest county, Kildare.
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