Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan has said that 325 garda recruits are required every year to keep staff numbers at the minimum strength of 13,000. That is 26 recruits more than are being trained this year.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins questioned this estimate given that the strength currently stands at 12,799 and that 230 of those were on career breaks. He also said the force faces an “exodus” with almost 1,500 members eligible to retire.
Speaking at the Oireachtas justice committee, Ms O’Sullivan was asked three times by senator James Heffernan if the Provisional IRA still existed— but declined to give a direct answer.
A number of committee members pressed Ms O’Sullivan on the staffing levels of the organisation and whether there was an “optimum numbers” survey.
Ms O’Sullivan said the force was conducting an internal “modelling” which was examining a range of factors, including staffing numbers, crime patterns, and demographics within the force and within society.
“To remain at 13,000 we are talking about continuous recruitment of 325 people per annum and that would just keep us at 13,000,” she told the committee.
“I would like to see [the numbers] staying around 13,000 and increasing if possible.”
Mr Collins said he thought 325 extra recruits per year was on the “conservative side”. He said the most recent official figures, from the start of this year, put the current strength at 12,799.
He said that, of these, up to 500 are off sick at any one time and that 230 of the 12,799 are on incentivised career breaks.
Mr Heffernan told the commissioner that parts of the border are ruled through “intimidation and fear” by the “Provisional IRA”.
He asked her about a letter sent in her name last month, stating that the gardaí had no information that the Provisional IRA still existed and asked did she believe this.
Ms O’Sullivan said she was “very much aware” that there were individuals — acting on their own or with organised crime — in the areas mentioned and that gardaí worked with the PSNI to dismantle them.
He asked her again if she believed the IRA existed. She said the gardaí would investigate any incidents of crime committed by any group or individual involved in organised crime or terrorism.
“I feel a bit frustrated I can’t get a yes or no answer,” Mr Heffernan said.
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