More than 170 senior positions in the Garda ranks are vacant even though the Government has given the go-ahead for the roles to be filled.
According to figures released by Justice Minister Alan Shatter, there are currently 2,352 officers holding ranks ranging from sergeant up to the highest position, Garda commissioner.
However, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has given sanction for a total of 2,523 officers across those ranks.
The shortfall is particularly acute at the grassroots level of sergeant, where there is a sanction for 2,000 officers but only 1,874 have been filled.
At the rank of inspector, just 273 of the 300 sanctioned positions are filled.
Mr Shatter said that where actual strength was below the approved maximum, the commissioner “is making the necessary arrangements to have the balance of posts filled through promotion competitions”.
John Redmond of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said the shortfall had been an issue since a moratorium was introduced by the Government. He said there had only been a small level of promotion in recent years, but not nearly enough to fill the important roles. This was not the fault of the Garda commissioner but of Government decisions and, he said, with recruitment planned it was even more important to fill these roles.
There are just under 13,160 gardaí, but with expected retirements, the Department of Justice has been given approval by the minister for public expenditure and reform to have a new intake.
“There are a number of procedural issues that need to be finalised prior to the formal commencement of that competition and these are expected to conclude in the coming weeks, with the first students entering the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, in mid-2014,” Mr Shatter said.
The figures released by the Department of Justice evidence a disproportionately low level of female senior officers compared to the percentage of the overall Garda force who are female.
For example, of the 44 chief superintendents around the country just four, or less than 9%, are women. Of the 151 superintendents, just 16, or 11%, are women; female officers account for just 26, or 10% of the 273 inspectors. Yet of the total compliment of 13,160 gardaí, 3,342 or 25% are women.
Meanwhile, Mr Shatter confirmed there is a shortfall in the defence forces compliment. The agreed “stabilised strength” of the forces should be 9,500 personnel, but it is currently just 9,188.
Mr Shatter said to that general service recruitment had recommenced in Sept 2013 with an intake of approximately 400 recruits expected.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved